Tantissimi classici della letteratura e della cultura politica,
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Abbe Prevost - MANON LESCAUT
Alcott, Louisa M. - AN OLDFASHIONED GIRL
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE MEN
Alcott, Louisa M. - LITTLE WOMEN
Alcott, Louisa May - JACK AND JILL
Alcott, Louisa May - LIFE LETTERS AND JOURNALS
Andersen, Hans Christian - FAIRY TALES
Anonimo - BEOWULF
Ariosto, Ludovico - ORLANDO ENRAGED
Aurelius, Marcus - MEDITATIONS
Austen, Jane - EMMA
Austen, Jane - MANSFIELD PARK
Austen, Jane - NORTHANGER ABBEY
Austen, Jane - PERSUASION
Austen, Jane - PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Austen, Jane - SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
Authors, Various - LETTERS OF ABELARD AND HELOISE
Authors, Various - SELECTED ENGLISH LETTERS
Autori Vari - THE WORLD ENGLISH BIBLE
Bacon, Francis - THE ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING
Balzac, Honore de - EUGENIE GRANDET
Balzac, Honore de - FATHER GORIOT
Baroness Orczy - THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL
Barrie, J. M. - PETER AND WENDY
Barrie, James M. - PETER PAN
Bierce, Ambrose - THE DEVIL'S DICTIONARY
Blake, William - SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE
Boccaccio, Giovanni - DECAMERONE
Brent, Linda - INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL
Bronte, Charlotte - JANE EYRE
Bronte, Charlotte - VILLETTE
Buchan, John - GREENMANTLE
Buchan, John - MR STANDFAST
Buchan, John - THE 39 STEPS
Bunyan, John - THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS
Burckhardt, Jacob - THE CIVILIZATION OF THE RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
Burnett, Frances H. - A LITTLE PRINCESS
Burnett, Frances H. - LITTLE LORD FAUNTLEROY
Burnett, Frances H. - THE SECRET GARDEN
Butler, Samuel - EREWHON
Carlyle, Thomas - PAST AND PRESENT
Carlyle, Thomas - THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
Cellini, Benvenuto - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Cervantes - DON QUIXOTE
Chaucer, Geoffrey - THE CANTERBURY TALES
Chesterton, G. K. - A SHORT HISTORY OF ENGLAND
Chesterton, G. K. - THE BALLAD OF THE WHITE HORSE
Chesterton, G. K. - THE INNOCENCE OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH
Chesterton, G. K. - THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
Chesterton, G. K. - THE WISDOM OF FATHER BROWN
Chesterton, G. K. - TWELVE TYPES
Chesterton, G. K. - WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA
Chesterton, Gilbert K. - HERETICS
Chopin, Kate - AT FAULT
Chopin, Kate - BAYOU FOLK
Chopin, Kate - THE AWAKENING AND SELECTED SHORT STORIES
Clark Hall, John R. - A CONCISE ANGLOSAXON DICTIONARY
Clarkson, Thomas - AN ESSAY ON THE SLAVERY AND COMMERCE OF THE HUMAN SPECIES
Clausewitz, Carl von - ON WAR
Coleridge, Herbert - A DICTIONARY OF THE FIRST OR OLDEST WORDS IN THE ENGLISH
Coleridge, S. T. - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Coleridge, S. T. - HINTS TOWARDS THE FORMATION OF A MORE COMPREHENSIVE THEORY
Coleridge, S. T. - THE RIME OF THE ANCIENT MARINER
Collins, Wilkie - THE MOONSTONE
Collodi - PINOCCHIO
Conan Doyle, Arthur - A STUDY IN SCARLET
Conan Doyle, Arthur - MEMOIRS OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE RETURN OF SHERLOCK HOLMES
Conan Doyle, Arthur - THE SIGN OF THE FOUR
Conrad, Joseph - HEART OF DARKNESS
Conrad, Joseph - LORD JIM
Conrad, Joseph - NOSTROMO
Conrad, Joseph - THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS
Conrad, Joseph - TYPHOON
Crane, Stephen - LAST WORDS
Crane, Stephen - MAGGIE
Crane, Stephen - THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE
Crane, Stephen - WOUNDS IN THE RAIN
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: HELL
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PARADISE
Dante - THE DIVINE COMEDY: PURGATORY
Darwin, Charles - THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF CHARLES DARWIN
Darwin, Charles - THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES
Defoe, Daniel - A GENERAL HISTORY OF THE PYRATES
Defoe, Daniel - A JOURNAL OF THE PLAGUE YEAR
Defoe, Daniel - CAPTAIN SINGLETON
Defoe, Daniel - MOLL FLANDERS
Defoe, Daniel - ROBINSON CRUSOE
Defoe, Daniel - THE COMPLETE ENGLISH TRADESMAN
Defoe, Daniel - THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF ROBINSON CRUSOE
Deledda, Grazia - AFTER THE DIVORCE
Dickens, Charles - A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Dickens, Charles - A TALE OF TWO CITIES
Dickens, Charles - BLEAK HOUSE
Dickens, Charles - DAVID COPPERFIELD
Dickens, Charles - DONBEY AND SON
Dickens, Charles - GREAT EXPECTATIONS
Dickens, Charles - HARD TIMES
Dickens, Charles - LETTERS VOLUME 1
Dickens, Charles - LITTLE DORRIT
Dickens, Charles - MARTIN CHUZZLEWIT
Dickens, Charles - NICHOLAS NICKLEBY
Dickens, Charles - OLIVER TWIST
Dickens, Charles - OUR MUTUAL FRIEND
Dickens, Charles - PICTURES FROM ITALY
Dickens, Charles - THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD
Dickens, Charles - THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP
Dickens, Charles - THE PICKWICK PAPERS
Dickinson, Emily - POEMS
Dostoevsky, Fyodor - CRIME AND PUNISHMENT
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV
Du Maurier, George - TRILBY
Dumas, Alexandre - THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO
Dumas, Alexandre - THE MAN IN THE IRON MASK
Dumas, Alexandre - THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Eliot, George - DANIEL DERONDA
Eliot, George - MIDDLEMARCH
Eliot, George - SILAS MARNER
Eliot, George - THE MILL ON THE FLOSS
Engels, Frederick - THE CONDITION OF THE WORKING-CLASS IN ENGLAND IN 1844
Equiano - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Esopo - FABLES
Fenimore Cooper, James - THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
Fielding, Henry - TOM JONES
France, Anatole - THAIS
France, Anatole - THE GODS ARE ATHIRST
France, Anatole - THE LIFE OF JOAN OF ARC
France, Anatole - THE SEVEN WIVES OF BLUEBEARD
Frank Baum, L. - THE PATCHWORK GIRL OF OZ
Frank Baum, L. - THE WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ
Franklin, Benjamin - AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Frazer, James George - THE GOLDEN BOUGH
Freud, Sigmund - DREAM PSYCHOLOGY
Galsworthy, John - COMPLETE PLAYS
Galsworthy, John - STRIFE
Galsworthy, John - STUDIES AND ESSAYS
Galsworthy, John - THE FIRST AND THE LAST
Galsworthy, John - THE FORSYTE SAGA
Galsworthy, John - THE LITTLE MAN
Galsworthy, John - THE SILVER BOX
Galsworthy, John - THE SKIN GAME
Gaskell, Elizabeth - CRANFORD
Gaskell, Elizabeth - MARY BARTON
Gaskell, Elizabeth - NORTH AND SOUTH
Gaskell, Elizabeth - THE LIFE OF CHARLOTTE BRONTE
Gay, John - THE BEGGAR'S OPERA
Gentile, Maria - THE ITALIAN COOK BOOK
Gilbert and Sullivan - PLAYS
Goethe - FAUST
Gogol - DEAD SOULS
Goldsmith, Oliver - SHE STOOPS TO CONQUER
Goldsmith, Oliver - THE VICAR OF WAKEFIELD
Grahame, Kenneth - THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS
Grimm, Brothers - FAIRY TALES
Harding, A. R. - GINSENG AND OTHER MEDICINAL PLANTS
Hardy, Thomas - A CHANGED MAN AND OTHER TALES
Hardy, Thomas - FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD
Hardy, Thomas - JUDE THE OBSCURE
Hardy, Thomas - TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES
Hardy, Thomas - THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE
Hartley, Cecil B. - THE GENTLEMEN'S BOOK OF ETIQUETTE
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - LITTLE MASTERPIECES
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - THE SCARLET LETTER
Henry VIII - LOVE LETTERS TO ANNE BOLEYN
Henry, O. - CABBAGES AND KINGS
Henry, O. - SIXES AND SEVENS
Henry, O. - THE FOUR MILLION
Henry, O. - THE TRIMMED LAMP
Henry, O. - WHIRLIGIGS
Hindman Miller, Gustavus - TEN THOUSAND DREAMS INTERPRETED
Hobbes, Thomas - LEVIATHAN
Homer - THE ILIAD
Homer - THE ODYSSEY
Hornaday, William T. - THE EXTERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN BISON
Hume, David - A TREATISE OF HUMAN NATURE
Hume, David - AN ENQUIRY CONCERNING HUMAN UNDERSTANDING
Hume, David - DIALOGUES CONCERNING NATURAL RELIGION
Ibsen, Henrik - A DOLL'S HOUSE
Ibsen, Henrik - AN ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE
Ibsen, Henrik - GHOSTS
Ibsen, Henrik - HEDDA GABLER
Ibsen, Henrik - JOHN GABRIEL BORKMAN
Ibsen, Henrik - ROSMERHOLM
Ibsen, Henrik - THE LADY FROM THE SEA
Ibsen, Henrik - THE MASTER BUILDER
Ibsen, Henrik - WHEN WE DEAD AWAKEN
Irving, Washington - THE LEGEND OF SLEEPY HOLLOW
James, Henry - ITALIAN HOURS
James, Henry - THE ASPERN PAPERS
James, Henry - THE BOSTONIANS
James, Henry - THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY
James, Henry - THE TURN OF THE SCREW
James, Henry - WASHINGTON SQUARE
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN IN A BOAT
Jerome, Jerome K. - THREE MEN ON THE BUMMEL
Jevons, Stanley - POLITICAL ECONOMY
Johnson, Samuel - A GRAMMAR OF THE ENGLISH TONGUE
Jonson, Ben - THE ALCHEMIST
Jonson, Ben - VOLPONE
Joyce, James - A PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN
Joyce, James - CHAMBER MUSIC
Joyce, James - DUBLINERS
Joyce, James - ULYSSES
Keats, John - ENDYMION
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1817
Keats, John - POEMS PUBLISHED IN 1820
King James - THE BIBLE
Kipling, Rudyard - CAPTAINS COURAGEOUS
Kipling, Rudyard - INDIAN TALES
Kipling, Rudyard - JUST SO STORIES
Kipling, Rudyard - KIM
Kipling, Rudyard - THE JUNGLE BOOK
Kipling, Rudyard - THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING
Kipling, Rudyard - THE SECOND JUNGLE BOOK
Lawrence, D. H - THE RAINBOW
Lawrence, D. H - THE WHITE PEACOCK
Lawrence, D. H - TWILIGHT IN ITALY
Lawrence, D. H. - AARON'S ROD
Lawrence, D. H. - SONS AND LOVERS
Lawrence, D. H. - THE LOST GIRL
Lawrence, D. H. - WOMEN IN LOVE
Lear, Edward - BOOK OF NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - LAUGHABLE LYRICS
Lear, Edward - MORE NONSENSE
Lear, Edward - NONSENSE SONG
Leblanc, Maurice - ARSENE LUPIN VS SHERLOCK HOLMES
Leblanc, Maurice - THE ADVENTURES OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE CONFESSIONS OF ARSENE LUPIN
Leblanc, Maurice - THE HOLLOW NEEDLE
Leblanc, Maurice - THE RETURN OF ARSENE LUPIN
Lehmann, Lilli - HOW TO SING
Leroux, Gaston - THE MAN WITH THE BLACK FEATHER
Leroux, Gaston - THE MYSTERY OF THE YELLOW ROOM
Leroux, Gaston - THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
London, Jack - MARTIN EDEN
London, Jack - THE CALL OF THE WILD
London, Jack - WHITE FANG
Machiavelli, Nicolo' - THE PRINCE
Malthus, Thomas - PRINCIPLE OF POPULATION
Mansfield, Katherine - THE GARDEN PARTY AND OTHER STORIES
Marlowe, Christopher - THE JEW OF MALTA
Marryat, Captain - THE CHILDREN OF THE NEW FOREST
Maupassant, Guy De - BEL AMI
Melville, Hermann - MOBY DICK
Melville, Hermann - TYPEE
Mill, John Stuart - PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY
Milton, John - PARADISE LOST
Mitra, S. M. - HINDU TALES FROM THE SANSKRIT
Montaigne, Michel de - ESSAYS
Montgomery, Lucy Maud - ANNE OF GREEN GABLES
More, Thomas - UTOPIA
Nesbit, E. - FIVE CHILDREN AND IT
Nesbit, E. - THE PHOENIX AND THE CARPET
Nesbit, E. - THE RAILWAY CHILDREN
Nesbit, E. - THE STORY OF THE AMULET
Newton, Isaac - OPTICKS
Nietsche, Friedrich - BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
Nietsche, Friedrich - THUS SPAKE ZARATHUSTRA
Nightingale, Florence - NOTES ON NURSING
Owen, Wilfred - POEMS
Ozaki, Yei Theodora - JAPANESE FAIRY TALES
Pascal, Blaise - PENSEES
Pellico, Silvio - MY TEN YEARS IMPRISONMENT
Perrault, Charles - FAIRY TALES
Pirandello, Luigi - THREE PLAYS
Plato - THE REPUBLIC
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 1
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 2
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 3
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 4
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS 5
Poe, Edgar Allan - THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
Potter, Beatrix - THE TALE OF PETER RABBIT
Proust, Marcel - SWANN'S WAY
Radcliffe, Ann - A SICILIAN ROMANCE
Ricardo, David - ON THE PRINCIPLES OF POLITICAL ECONOMY AND TAXATION
Richardson, Samuel - PAMELA
Rider Haggard, H. - ALLAN QUATERMAIN
Rider Haggard, H. - KING SOLOMON'S MINES
Rousseau, J. J. - THE ORIGIN AND FOUNDATION OF INEQUALITY AMONG MANKIND
Ruskin, John - THE SEVEN LAMPS OF ARCHITECTURE
Schiller, Friedrich - THE DEATH OF WALLENSTEIN
Schiller, Friedrich - THE PICCOLOMINI
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE ART OF CONTROVERSY
Schopenhauer, Arthur - THE WISDOM OF LIFE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - FLAPPERS AND PHILOSOPHERS
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - TALES OF THE JAZZ AGE
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THE BEAUTIFUL AND DAMNED
Scott Fitzgerald, F. - THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
Scott, Walter - IVANHOE
Scott, Walter - QUENTIN DURWARD
Scott, Walter - ROB ROY
Scott, Walter - THE BRIDE OF LAMMERMOOR
Scott, Walter - WAVERLEY
Sedgwick, Anne Douglas - THE THIRD WINDOW
Sewell, Anna - BLACK BEAUTY
Shakespeare, William - COMPLETE WORKS
Shakespeare, William - HAMLET
Shakespeare, William - OTHELLO
Shakespeare, William - ROMEO AND JULIET
Shelley, Mary - FRANKENSTEIN
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - A DEFENCE OF POETRY AND OTHER ESSAYS
Shelley, Percy Bysshe - COMPLETE POETICAL WORKS
Sheridan, Richard B. - THE SCHOOL FOR SCANDAL
Sienkiewicz, Henryk - QUO VADIS
Smith, Adam - THE WEALTH OF NATIONS
Smollett, Tobias - TRAVELS THROUGH FRANCE AND ITALY
Spencer, Herbert - ESSAYS ON EDUCATION AND KINDRED SUBJECTS
Spyri, Johanna - HEIDI
Sterne, Laurence - A SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY
Sterne, Laurence - TRISTRAM SHANDY
Stevenson, Robert Louis - A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES
Stevenson, Robert Louis - ESSAYS IN THE ART OF WRITING
Stevenson, Robert Louis - KIDNAPPED
Stevenson, Robert Louis - NEW ARABIAN NIGHTS
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE BLACK ARROW
Stevenson, Robert Louis - THE STRANGE CASE OF DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE
Stevenson, Robert Louis - TREASURE ISLAND
Stoker, Bram - DRACULA
Strindberg, August - LUCKY PEHR
Strindberg, August - MASTER OLOF
Strindberg, August - THE RED ROOM
Strindberg, August - THE ROAD TO DAMASCUS
Strindberg, August - THERE ARE CRIMES AND CRIMES
Swift, Jonathan - A MODEST PROPOSAL
Swift, Jonathan - A TALE OF A TUB
Swift, Jonathan - GULLIVER'S TRAVELS
Swift, Jonathan - THE BATTLE OF THE BOOKS AND OTHER SHORT PIECES
Tagore, Rabindranath - FRUIT GATHERING
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE GARDENER
Tagore, Rabindranath - THE HUNGRY STONES AND OTHER STORIES
Thackeray, William - BARRY LYNDON
Thackeray, William - VANITY FAIR
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE BOOK OF SNOBS
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE ROSE AND THE RING
Thackeray, William Makepeace - THE VIRGINIANS
Thoreau, Henry David - WALDEN
Tolstoi, Leo - A LETTER TO A HINDU
Tolstoy, Lev - ANNA KARENINA
Tolstoy, Lev - WAR AND PEACE
Trollope, Anthony - AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Trollope, Anthony - BARCHESTER TOWERS
Trollope, Anthony - FRAMLEY PARSONAGE
Trollope, Anthony - THE EUSTACE DIAMONDS
Trollope, Anthony - THE MAN WHO KEPT HIS MONEY IN A BOX
Trollope, Anthony - THE WARDEN
Trollope, Anthony - THE WAY WE LIVE NOW
Twain, Mark - LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI
Twain, Mark - SPEECHES
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Twain, Mark - THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
Twain, Mark - THE PRINCE AND THE PAUPER
Vari, Autori - THE MAGNA CARTA
Verga, Giovanni - SICILIAN STORIES
Verne, Jules - 20000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEAS
Verne, Jules - A JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH
Verne, Jules - ALL AROUND THE MOON
Verne, Jules - AROUND THE WORLD IN 80 DAYS
Verne, Jules - FIVE WEEKS IN A BALLOON
Verne, Jules - FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON
Verne, Jules - MICHAEL STROGOFF
Verne, Jules - THE MYSTERIOUS ISLAND
Voltaire - PHILOSOPHICAL DICTIONARY
Vyasa - MAHABHARATA
Wallace, Edgar - SANDERS OF THE RIVER
Wallace, Edgar - THE DAFFODIL MYSTERY
Wallace, Lew - BEN HUR
Webster, Jean - DADDY LONG LEGS
Wedekind, Franz - THE AWAKENING OF SPRING
Wells, H. G. - KIPPS
Wells, H. G. - THE INVISIBLE MAN
Wells, H. G. - THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR MOREAU
Wells, H. G. - THE STOLEN BACILLUS AND OTHER INCIDENTS
Wells, H. G. - THE TIME MACHINE
Wells, H. G. - THE WAR OF THE WORLDS
Wells, H. G. - WHAT IS COMING
Wharton, Edith - THE AGE OF INNOCENCE
White, Andrew Dickson - FIAT MONEY INFLATION IN FRANCE
Wilde, Oscar - A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE
Wilde, Oscar - AN IDEAL HUSBAND
Wilde, Oscar - DE PROFUNDIS
Wilde, Oscar - LADY WINDERMERE'S FAN
Wilde, Oscar - SALOME
Wilde, Oscar - SELECTED POEMS
Wilde, Oscar - THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Wilde, Oscar - THE CANTERVILLE GHOST
Wilde, Oscar - THE HAPPY PRINCE AND OTHER TALES
Wilde, Oscar - THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST
Wilde, Oscar - THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GREY
Wilde, Oscar - THE SOUL OF MAN
Wilson, Epiphanius - SACRED BOOKS OF THE EAST
Wollstonecraft, Mary - A VINDICATION OF THE RIGHTS OF WOMAN
Woolf, Virgina - NIGHT AND DAY
Woolf, Virgina - THE VOYAGE OUT
Woolf, Virginia - JACOB'S ROOM
Woolf, Virginia - MONDAY OR TUESDAY
Wordsworth, William - POEMS
Wordsworth, William - PROSE WORKS
Zola, Emile - THERESE RAQUIN
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ISTRUZIONI D'USO DETTAGLIATE
THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY. A NIGHTMARE.
by G. K. Chesterton.
CHAPTER I. THE TWO POETS OF SAFFRON PARK.
THE suburb of Saffron Park lay on the sunset side of London, as red and
ragged as a cloud of sunset. It was built of a bright brick throughout;
its sky-line was fantastic, and even its ground plan was wild. It had
been the outburst of a speculative builder, faintly tinged with art, who
called its architecture sometimes Elizabethan and sometimes Queen Anne,
apparently under the impression that the two sovereigns were identical.
It was described with some justice as an artistic colony, though
it never in any definable way produced any art. But although its
pretensions to be an intellectual centre were a little vague, its
pretensions to be a pleasant place were quite indisputable. The stranger
who looked for the first time at the quaint red houses could only think
how very oddly shaped the people must be who could fit in to them. Nor
when he met the people was he disappointed in this respect. The place
was not only pleasant, but perfect, if once he could regard it not as a
deception but rather as a dream. Even if the people were not "artists,"
the whole was nevertheless artistic. That young man with the long,
auburn hair and the impudent face--that young man was not really a poet;
but surely he was a poem. That old gentleman with the wild, white
beard and the wild, white hat--that venerable humbug was not really a
philosopher; but at least he was the cause of philosophy in others.
That scientific gentleman with the bald, egg-like head and the bare,
bird-like neck had no real right to the airs of science that he assumed.
He had not discovered anything new in biology; but what biological
creature could he have discovered more singular than himself? Thus, and
thus only, the whole place had properly to be regarded; it had to be
considered not so much as a workshop for artists, but as a frail but
finished work of art. A man who stepped into its social atmosphere felt
as if he had stepped into a written comedy.
More especially this attractive unreality fell upon it about nightfall,
when the extravagant roofs were dark against the afterglow and the whole
insane village seemed as separate as a drifting cloud. This again was
more strongly true of the many nights of local festivity, when the
little gardens were often illuminated, and the big Chinese lanterns
glowed in the dwarfish trees like some fierce and monstrous fruit.
And this was strongest of all on one particular evening, still vaguely
remembered in the locality, of which the auburn-haired poet was the
hero. It was not by any means the only evening of which he was the hero.
On many nights those passing by his little back garden might hear his
high, didactic voice laying down the law to men and particularly
to women. The attitude of women in such cases was indeed one of the
paradoxes of the place. Most of the women were of the kind vaguely
called emancipated, and professed some protest against male supremacy.
Yet these new women would always pay to a man the extravagant compliment
which no ordinary woman ever pays to him, that of listening while he
is talking. And Mr. Lucian Gregory, the red-haired poet, was really (in
some sense) a man worth listening to, even if one only laughed at the
end of it. He put the old cant of the lawlessness of art and the art
of lawlessness with a certain impudent freshness which gave at least a
momentary pleasure. He was helped in some degree by the arresting oddity
of his appearance, which he worked, as the phrase goes, for all it
was worth. His dark red hair parted in the middle was literally like a
woman's, and curved into the slow curls of a virgin in a pre-Raphaelite
picture. From within this almost saintly oval, however, his face
projected suddenly broad and brutal, the chin carried forward with a
look of cockney contempt. This combination at once tickled and terrified
the nerves of a neurotic population. He seemed like a walking blasphemy,
a blend of the angel and the ape.
This particular evening, if it is remembered for nothing else, will be
remembered in that place for its strange sunset. It looked like the
end of the world. All the heaven seemed covered with a quite vivid and
palpable plumage; you could only say that the sky was full of feathers,
and of feathers that almost brushed the face. Across the great part of
the dome they were grey, with the strangest tints of violet and mauve
and an unnatural pink or pale green; but towards the west the whole
grew past description, transparent and passionate, and the last red-hot
plumes of it covered up the sun like something too good to be seen. The
whole was so close about the earth, as to express nothing but a violent
secrecy. The very empyrean seemed to be a secret. It expressed that
splendid smallness which is the soul of local patriotism. The very sky
I say that there are some inhabitants who may remember the evening
if only by that oppressive sky. There are others who may remember it
because it marked the first appearance in the place of the second
poet of Saffron Park. For a long time the red-haired revolutionary had
reigned without a rival; it was upon the night of the sunset that his
solitude suddenly ended. The new poet, who introduced himself by the
name of Gabriel Syme was a very mild-looking mortal, with a fair,
pointed beard and faint, yellow hair. But an impression grew that he was
less meek than he looked. He signalised his entrance by differing with
the established poet, Gregory, upon the whole nature of poetry. He said
that he (Syme) was poet of law, a poet of order; nay, he said he was a
poet of respectability. So all the Saffron Parkers looked at him as if
he had that moment fallen out of that impossible sky.
In fact, Mr. Lucian Gregory, the anarchic poet, connected the two
"It may well be," he said, in his sudden lyrical manner, "it may well be
on such a night of clouds and cruel colours that there is brought forth
upon the earth such a portent as a respectable poet. You say you are a
poet of law; I say you are a contradiction in terms. I only wonder
there were not comets and earthquakes on the night you appeared in this
The man with the meek blue eyes and the pale, pointed beard endured
these thunders with a certain submissive solemnity. The third party of
the group, Gregory's sister Rosamond, who had her brother's braids of
red hair, but a kindlier face underneath them, laughed with such mixture
of admiration and disapproval as she gave commonly to the family oracle.
Gregory resumed in high oratorical good humour.
"An artist is identical with an anarchist," he cried. "You might
transpose the words anywhere. An anarchist is an artist. The man
who throws a bomb is an artist, because he prefers a great moment to
everything. He sees how much more valuable is one burst of blazing
light, one peal of perfect thunder, than the mere common bodies of a few
shapeless policemen. An artist disregards all governments, abolishes all
conventions. The poet delights in disorder only. If it were not so, the
most poetical thing in the world would be the Underground Railway."
"So it is," said Mr. Syme.
"Nonsense!" said Gregory, who was very rational when anyone else
attempted paradox. "Why do all the clerks and navvies in the railway
trains look so sad and tired, so very sad and tired? I will tell you. It
is because they know that the train is going right. It is because they
know that whatever place they have taken a ticket for that place they
will reach. It is because after they have passed Sloane Square they know
that the next station must be Victoria, and nothing but Victoria. Oh,
their wild rapture! oh, their eyes like stars and their souls again in
Eden, if the next station were unaccountably Baker Street!"
"It is you who are unpoetical," replied the poet Syme. "If what you say
of clerks is true, they can only be as prosaic as your poetry. The rare,
strange thing is to hit the mark; the gross, obvious thing is to miss
it. We feel it is epical when man with one wild arrow strikes a distant
bird. Is it not also epical when man with one wild engine strikes a
distant station? Chaos is dull; because in chaos the train might indeed
go anywhere, to Baker Street or to Bagdad. But man is a magician, and
his whole magic is in this, that he does say Victoria, and lo! it is
Victoria. No, take your books of mere poetry and prose; let me read a
time table, with tears of pride. Take your Byron, who commemorates the
defeats of man; give me Bradshaw, who commemorates his victories. Give
me Bradshaw, I say!"
"Must you go?" inquired Gregory sarcastically.
"I tell you," went on Syme with passion, "that every time a train comes
in I feel that it has broken past batteries of besiegers, and that man
has won a battle against chaos. You say contemptuously that when one has
left Sloane Square one must come to Victoria. I say that one might do
a thousand things instead, and that whenever I really come there I have
the sense of hairbreadth escape. And when I hear the guard shout out the
word 'Victoria,' it is not an unmeaning word. It is to me the cry of
a herald announcing conquest. It is to me indeed 'Victoria'; it is the
victory of Adam."
Gregory wagged his heavy, red head with a slow and sad smile.
"And even then," he said, "we poets always ask the question, 'And what
is Victoria now that you have got there?' You think Victoria is like
the New Jerusalem. We know that the New Jerusalem will only be like
Victoria. Yes, the poet will be discontented even in the streets of
heaven. The poet is always in revolt."
"There again," said Syme irritably, "what is there poetical about being
in revolt? You might as well say that it is poetical to be sea-sick.
Being sick is a revolt. Both being sick and being rebellious may be the
wholesome thing on certain desperate occasions; but I'm hanged if I can
see why they are poetical. Revolt in the abstract is--revolting. It's
The girl winced for a flash at the unpleasant word, but Syme was too hot
to heed her.
"It is things going right," he cried, "that is poetical! Our digestions,
for instance, going sacredly and silently right, that is the foundation
of all poetry. Yes, the most poetical thing, more poetical than the
flowers, more poetical than the stars--the most poetical thing in the
world is not being sick."
"Really," said Gregory superciliously, "the examples you choose--"
"I beg your pardon," said Syme grimly, "I forgot we had abolished all
For the first time a red patch appeared on Gregory's forehead.
"You don't expect me," he said, "to revolutionise society on this lawn?"
Syme looked straight into his eyes and smiled sweetly.
"No, I don't," he said; "but I suppose that if you were serious about
your anarchism, that is exactly what you would do."
Gregory's big bull's eyes blinked suddenly like those of an angry lion,
and one could almost fancy that his red mane rose.
"Don't you think, then," he said in a dangerous voice, "that I am
serious about my anarchism?"
"I beg your pardon?" said Syme.
"Am I not serious about my anarchism?" cried Gregory, with knotted
"My dear fellow!" said Syme, and strolled away.
With surprise, but with a curious pleasure, he found Rosamond Gregory
still in his company.
"Mr. Syme," she said, "do the people who talk like you and my brother
often mean what they say? Do you mean what you say now?"
"Do you?" he asked.
"What do you mean?" asked the girl, with grave eyes.
"My dear Miss Gregory," said Syme gently, "there are many kinds of
sincerity and insincerity. When you say 'thank you' for the salt, do you
mean what you say? No. When you say 'the world is round,' do you mean
what you say? No. It is true, but you don't mean it. Now, sometimes a
man like your brother really finds a thing he does mean. It may be only
a half-truth, quarter-truth, tenth-truth; but then he says more than he
means--from sheer force of meaning it."
She was looking at him from under level brows; her face was grave
and open, and there had fallen upon it the shadow of that unreasoning
responsibility which is at the bottom of the most frivolous woman, the
maternal watch which is as old as the world.
"Is he really an anarchist, then?" she asked.
"Only in that sense I speak of," replied Syme; "or if you prefer it, in
She drew her broad brows together and said abruptly--
"He wouldn't really use--bombs or that sort of thing?"
Syme broke into a great laugh, that seemed too large for his slight and
somewhat dandified figure.
"Good Lord, no!" he said, "that has to be done anonymously."
And at that the corners of her own mouth broke into a smile, and she
thought with a simultaneous pleasure of Gregory's absurdity and of his
Syme strolled with her to a seat in the corner of the garden, and
continued to pour out his opinions. For he was a sincere man, and in
spite of his superficial airs and graces, at root a humble one. And
it is always the humble man who talks too much; the proud man watches
himself too closely. He defended respectability with violence and
exaggeration. He grew passionate in his praise of tidiness and
propriety. All the time there was a smell of lilac all round him. Once
he heard very faintly in some distant street a barrel-organ begin to
play, and it seemed to him that his heroic words were moving to a tiny
tune from under or beyond the world.
He stared and talked at the girl's red hair and amused face for what
seemed to be a few minutes; and then, feeling that the groups in such a
place should mix, rose to his feet. To his astonishment, he discovered
the whole garden empty. Everyone had gone long ago, and he went himself
with a rather hurried apology. He left with a sense of champagne in his
head, which he could not afterwards explain. In the wild events which
were to follow this girl had no part at all; he never saw her again
until all his tale was over. And yet, in some indescribable way, she
kept recurring like a motive in music through all his mad adventures
afterwards, and the glory of her strange hair ran like a red thread
through those dark and ill-drawn tapestries of the night. For what
followed was so improbable, that it might well have been a dream.
When Syme went out into the starlit street, he found it for the moment
empty. Then he realised (in some odd way) that the silence was rather a
living silence than a dead one. Directly outside the door stood a street
lamp, whose gleam gilded the leaves of the tree that bent out over the
fence behind him. About a foot from the lamp-post stood a figure almost
as rigid and motionless as the lamp-post itself. The tall hat and long
frock coat were black; the face, in an abrupt shadow, was almost as
dark. Only a fringe of fiery hair against the light, and also something
aggressive in the attitude, proclaimed that it was the poet Gregory. He
had something of the look of a masked bravo waiting sword in hand for
He made a sort of doubtful salute, which Syme somewhat more formally
"I was waiting for you," said Gregory. "Might I have a moment's
"Certainly. About what?" asked Syme in a sort of weak wonder.
Gregory struck out with his stick at the lamp-post, and then at the
tree. "About this and this," he cried; "about order and anarchy. There
is your precious order, that lean, iron lamp, ugly and barren; and there
is anarchy, rich, living, reproducing itself--there is anarchy, splendid
in green and gold."
"All the same," replied Syme patiently, "just at present you only see
the tree by the light of the lamp. I wonder when you would ever see the
lamp by the light of the tree." Then after a pause he said, "But may I
ask if you have been standing out here in the dark only to resume our
"No," cried out Gregory, in a voice that rang down the street, "I did
not stand here to resume our argument, but to end it for ever."
The silence fell again, and Syme, though he understood nothing, listened
instinctively for something serious. Gregory began in a smooth voice and
with a rather bewildering smile.
"Mr. Syme," he said, "this evening you succeeded in doing something
rather remarkable. You did something to me that no man born of woman has
ever succeeded in doing before."
"Now I remember," resumed Gregory reflectively, "one other person
succeeded in doing it. The captain of a penny steamer (if I remember
correctly) at Southend. You have irritated me."
"I am very sorry," replied Syme with gravity.
"I am afraid my fury and your insult are too shocking to be wiped out
even with an apology," said Gregory very calmly. "No duel could wipe it
out. If I struck you dead I could not wipe it out. There is only one way
by which that insult can be erased, and that way I choose. I am going,
at the possible sacrifice of my life and honour, to prove to you that
you were wrong in what you said."
"In what I said?"
"You said I was not serious about being an anarchist."
"There are degrees of seriousness," replied Syme. "I have never doubted
that you were perfectly sincere in this sense, that you thought what you
said well worth saying, that you thought a paradox might wake men up to
a neglected truth."
Gregory stared at him steadily and painfully.
"And in no other sense," he asked, "you think me serious? You think me
a flaneur who lets fall occasional truths. You do not think that in a
deeper, a more deadly sense, I am serious."
Syme struck his stick violently on the stones of the road.
"Serious!" he cried. "Good Lord! is this street serious? Are these
damned Chinese lanterns serious? Is the whole caboodle serious? One
comes here and talks a pack of bosh, and perhaps some sense as well,
but I should think very little of a man who didn't keep something in
the background of his life that was more serious than all this
talking--something more serious, whether it was religion or only drink."
"Very well," said Gregory, his face darkening, "you shall see something
more serious than either drink or religion."
Syme stood waiting with his usual air of mildness until Gregory again
opened his lips.
"You spoke just now of having a religion. Is it really true that you
"Oh," said Syme with a beaming smile, "we are all Catholics now."
"Then may I ask you to swear by whatever gods or saints your religion
involves that you will not reveal what I am now going to tell you to any
son of Adam, and especially not to the police? Will you swear that! If
you will take upon yourself this awful abnegation if you will consent
to burden your soul with a vow that you should never make and a
knowledge you should never dream about, I will promise you in return--"
"You will promise me in return?" inquired Syme, as the other paused.
"I will promise you a very entertaining evening." Syme suddenly took off
"Your offer," he said, "is far too idiotic to be declined. You say that
a poet is always an anarchist. I disagree; but I hope at least that he
is always a sportsman. Permit me, here and now, to swear as a Christian,
and promise as a good comrade and a fellow-artist, that I will not
report anything of this, whatever it is, to the police. And now, in the
name of Colney Hatch, what is it?"
"I think," said Gregory, with placid irrelevancy, "that we will call a
He gave two long whistles, and a hansom came rattling down the road. The
two got into it in silence. Gregory gave through the trap the address
of an obscure public-house on the Chiswick bank of the river. The cab
whisked itself away again, and in it these two fantastics quitted their
CHAPTER II. THE SECRET OF GABRIEL SYME
THE cab pulled up before a particularly dreary and greasy beershop, into
which Gregory rapidly conducted his companion. They seated themselves in
a close and dim sort of bar-parlour, at a stained wooden table with one
wooden leg. The room was so small and dark, that very little could
be seen of the attendant who was summoned, beyond a vague and dark
impression of something bulky and bearded.
"Will you take a little supper?" asked Gregory politely. "The pate de
foie gras is not good here, but I can recommend the game."
Syme received the remark with stolidity, imagining it to be a joke.
Accepting the vein of humour, he said, with a well-bred indifference--
"Oh, bring me some lobster mayonnaise."
To his indescribable astonishment, the man only said "Certainly, sir!"
and went away apparently to get it.
"What will you drink?" resumed Gregory, with the same careless yet
apologetic air. "I shall only have a crepe de menthe myself; I have
dined. But the champagne can really be trusted. Do let me start you with
a half-bottle of Pommery at least?"
"Thank you!" said the motionless Syme. "You are very good."
His further attempts at conversation, somewhat disorganised in
themselves, were cut short finally as by a thunderbolt by the actual
appearance of the lobster. Syme tasted it, and found it particularly
good. Then he suddenly began to eat with great rapidity and appetite.
"Excuse me if I enjoy myself rather obviously!" he said to Gregory,
smiling. "I don't often have the luck to have a dream like this. It is
new to me for a nightmare to lead to a lobster. It is commonly the other
"You are not asleep, I assure you," said Gregory. "You are, on the
contrary, close to the most actual and rousing moment of your existence.
Ah, here comes your champagne! I admit that there may be a slight
disproportion, let us say, between the inner arrangements of this
excellent hotel and its simple and unpretentious exterior. But that is
all our modesty. We are the most modest men that ever lived on earth."
"And who are we?" asked Syme, emptying his champagne glass.
"It is quite simple," replied Gregory. "We are the serious anarchists,
in whom you do not believe."
"Oh!" said Syme shortly. "You do yourselves well in drinks."
"Yes, we are serious about everything," answered Gregory.
Then after a pause he added--
"If in a few moments this table begins to turn round a little, don't
put it down to your inroads into the champagne. I don't wish you to do
yourself an injustice."
"Well, if I am not drunk, I am mad," replied Syme with perfect calm;
"but I trust I can behave like a gentleman in either condition. May I
"Certainly!" said Gregory, producing a cigar-case. "Try one of mine."
Syme took the cigar, clipped the end off with a cigar-cutter out of his
waistcoat pocket, put it in his mouth, lit it slowly, and let out a long
cloud of smoke. It is not a little to his credit that he performed these
rites with so much composure, for almost before he had begun them the
table at which he sat had begun to revolve, first slowly, and then
rapidly, as if at an insane seance.
"You must not mind it," said Gregory; "it's a kind of screw."
"Quite so," said Syme placidly, "a kind of screw. How simple that is!"
The next moment the smoke of his cigar, which had been wavering across
the room in snaky twists, went straight up as if from a factory chimney,
and the two, with their chairs and table, shot down through the floor
as if the earth had swallowed them. They went rattling down a kind of
roaring chimney as rapidly as a lift cut loose, and they came with an
abrupt bump to the bottom. But when Gregory threw open a pair of doors
and let in a red subterranean light, Syme was still smoking with one leg
thrown over the other, and had not turned a yellow hair.
Gregory led him down a low, vaulted passage, at the end of which was
the red light. It was an enormous crimson lantern, nearly as big as a
fireplace, fixed over a small but heavy iron door. In the door there was
a sort of hatchway or grating, and on this Gregory struck five times. A
heavy voice with a foreign accent asked him who he was. To this he gave
the more or less unexpected reply, "Mr. Joseph Chamberlain." The heavy
hinges began to move; it was obviously some kind of password.
Inside the doorway the passage gleamed as if it were lined with a
network of steel. On a second glance, Syme saw that the glittering
pattern was really made up of ranks and ranks of rifles and revolvers,
closely packed or interlocked.
"I must ask you to forgive me all these formalities," said Gregory; "we
have to be very strict here."
"Oh, don't apologise," said Syme. "I know your passion for law and
order," and he stepped into the passage lined with the steel weapons.
With his long, fair hair and rather foppish frock-coat, he looked a
singularly frail and fanciful figure as he walked down that shining
avenue of death.
They passed through several such passages, and came out at last into a
queer steel chamber with curved walls, almost spherical in shape, but
presenting, with its tiers of benches, something of the appearance of
a scientific lecture-theatre. There were no rifles or pistols in this
apartment, but round the walls of it were hung more dubious and dreadful
shapes, things that looked like the bulbs of iron plants, or the eggs
of iron birds. They were bombs, and the very room itself seemed like the
inside of a bomb. Syme knocked his cigar ash off against the wall, and
"And now, my dear Mr. Syme," said Gregory, throwing himself in an
expansive manner on the bench under the largest bomb, "now we are quite
cosy, so let us talk properly. Now no human words can give you any
notion of why I brought you here. It was one of those quite arbitrary
emotions, like jumping off a cliff or falling in love. Suffice it to
say that you were an inexpressibly irritating fellow, and, to do you
justice, you are still. I would break twenty oaths of secrecy for the
pleasure of taking you down a peg. That way you have of lighting a cigar
would make a priest break the seal of confession. Well, you said that
you were quite certain I was not a serious anarchist. Does this place
strike you as being serious?"
"It does seem to have a moral under all its gaiety," assented Syme; "but
may I ask you two questions? You need not fear to give me information,
because, as you remember, you very wisely extorted from me a promise not
to tell the police, a promise I shall certainly keep. So it is in mere
curiosity that I make my queries. First of all, what is it really all
about? What is it you object to? You want to abolish Government?"
"To abolish God!" said Gregory, opening the eyes of a fanatic. "We do
not only want to upset a few despotisms and police regulations;
that sort of anarchism does exist, but it is a mere branch of the
Nonconformists. We dig deeper and we blow you higher. We wish to
deny all those arbitrary distinctions of vice and virtue, honour
and treachery, upon which mere rebels base themselves. The silly
sentimentalists of the French Revolution talked of the Rights of Man! We
hate Rights as we hate Wrongs. We have abolished Right and Wrong."
"And Right and Left," said Syme with a simple eagerness, "I hope you
will abolish them too. They are much more troublesome to me."
"You spoke of a second question," snapped Gregory.
"With pleasure," resumed Syme. "In all your present acts and
surroundings there is a scientific attempt at secrecy. I have an aunt
who lived over a shop, but this is the first time I have found people
living from preference under a public-house. You have a heavy iron door.
You cannot pass it without submitting to the humiliation of calling
yourself Mr. Chamberlain. You surround yourself with steel instruments
which make the place, if I may say so, more impressive than homelike.
May I ask why, after taking all this trouble to barricade yourselves in
the bowels of the earth, you then parade your whole secret by talking
about anarchism to every silly woman in Saffron Park?"
"The answer is simple," he said. "I told you I was a serious anarchist,
and you did not believe me. Nor do they believe me. Unless I took them
into this infernal room they would not believe me."
Syme smoked thoughtfully, and looked at him with interest. Gregory went
"The history of the thing might amuse you," he said. "When first I
became one of the New Anarchists I tried all kinds of respectable
disguises. I dressed up as a bishop. I read up all about bishops in our
anarchist pamphlets, in Superstition the Vampire and Priests of Prey. I
certainly understood from them that bishops are strange and terrible old
men keeping a cruel secret from mankind. I was misinformed. When on my
first appearing in episcopal gaiters in a drawing-room I cried out in
a voice of thunder, 'Down! down! presumptuous human reason!' they found
out in some way that I was not a bishop at all. I was nabbed at once.
Then I made up as a millionaire; but I defended Capital with so much
intelligence that a fool could see that I was quite poor. Then I tried
being a major. Now I am a humanitarian myself, but I have, I hope,
enough intellectual breadth to understand the position of those who,
like Nietzsche, admire violence--the proud, mad war of Nature and all
that, you know. I threw myself into the major. I drew my sword and waved
it constantly. I called out 'Blood!' abstractedly, like a man calling
for wine. I often said, 'Let the weak perish; it is the Law.' Well,
well, it seems majors don't do this. I was nabbed again. At last I went
in despair to the President of the Central Anarchist Council, who is the
greatest man in Europe."
"What is his name?" asked Syme.
"You would not know it," answered Gregory. "That is his greatness.
Caesar and Napoleon put all their genius into being heard of, and they
were heard of. He puts all his genius into not being heard of, and he
is not heard of. But you cannot be for five minutes in the room with him
without feeling that Caesar and Napoleon would have been children in his
He was silent and even pale for a moment, and then resumed--
"But whenever he gives advice it is always something as startling as
an epigram, and yet as practical as the Bank of England. I said to
him, 'What disguise will hide me from the world? What can I find more
respectable than bishops and majors?' He looked at me with his large but
indecipherable face. 'You want a safe disguise, do you? You want a dress
which will guarantee you harmless; a dress in which no one would ever
look for a bomb?' I nodded. He suddenly lifted his lion's voice. 'Why,
then, dress up as an anarchist, you fool!' he roared so that the room
shook. 'Nobody will ever expect you to do anything dangerous then.' And
he turned his broad back on me without another word. I took his advice,
and have never regretted it. I preached blood and murder to those
women day and night, and--by God!--they would let me wheel their
Syme sat watching him with some respect in his large, blue eyes.
"You took me in," he said. "It is really a smart dodge."
Then after a pause he added--
"What do you call this tremendous President of yours?"
"We generally call him Sunday," replied Gregory with simplicity. "You
see, there are seven members of the Central Anarchist Council, and they
are named after days of the week. He is called Sunday, by some of his
admirers Bloody Sunday. It is curious you should mention the matter,
because the very night you have dropped in (if I may so express it) is
the night on which our London branch, which assembles in this room, has
to elect its own deputy to fill a vacancy in the Council. The gentleman
who has for some time past played, with propriety and general applause,
the difficult part of Thursday, has died quite suddenly. Consequently,
we have called a meeting this very evening to elect a successor."
He got to his feet and strolled across the room with a sort of smiling
"I feel somehow as if you were my mother, Syme," he continued casually.
"I feel that I can confide anything to you, as you have promised to tell
nobody. In fact, I will confide to you something that I would not say in
so many words to the anarchists who will be coming to the room in about
ten minutes. We shall, of course, go through a form of election; but I
don't mind telling you that it is practically certain what the result
will be." He looked down for a moment modestly. "It is almost a settled
thing that I am to be Thursday."
"My dear fellow." said Syme heartily, "I congratulate you. A great
Gregory smiled in deprecation, and walked across the room, talking
"As a matter of fact, everything is ready for me on this table," he
said, "and the ceremony will probably be the shortest possible."
Syme also strolled across to the table, and found lying across it a
walking-stick, which turned out on examination to be a sword-stick,
a large Colt's revolver, a sandwich case, and a formidable flask of
brandy. Over the chair, beside the table, was thrown a heavy-looking
cape or cloak.
"I have only to get the form of election finished," continued Gregory
with animation, "then I snatch up this cloak and stick, stuff these
other things into my pocket, step out of a door in this cavern, which
opens on the river, where there is a steam-tug already waiting for me,
and then--then--oh, the wild joy of being Thursday!" And he clasped his
Syme, who had sat down once more with his usual insolent languor, got to
his feet with an unusual air of hesitation.
"Why is it," he asked vaguely, "that I think you are quite a decent
fellow? Why do I positively like you, Gregory?" He paused a moment, and
then added with a sort of fresh curiosity, "Is it because you are such
There was a thoughtful silence again, and then he cried out--
"Well, damn it all! this is the funniest situation I have ever been in
in my life, and I am going to act accordingly. Gregory, I gave you a
promise before I came into this place. That promise I would keep under
red-hot pincers. Would you give me, for my own safety, a little promise
of the same kind?"
"A promise?" asked Gregory, wondering.
"Yes," said Syme very seriously, "a promise. I swore before God that I
would not tell your secret to the police. Will you swear by Humanity, or
whatever beastly thing you believe in, that you will not tell my secret
to the anarchists?"
"Your secret?" asked the staring Gregory. "Have you got a secret?"
"Yes," said Syme, "I have a secret." Then after a pause, "Will you
Gregory glared at him gravely for a few moments, and then said
"You must have bewitched me, but I feel a furious curiosity about you.
Yes, I will swear not to tell the anarchists anything you tell me. But
look sharp, for they will be here in a couple of minutes."
Syme rose slowly to his feet and thrust his long, white hands into his
long, grey trousers' pockets. Almost as he did so there came five
knocks on the outer grating, proclaiming the arrival of the first of the
"Well," said Syme slowly, "I don't know how to tell you the truth more
shortly than by saying that your expedient of dressing up as an aimless
poet is not confined to you or your President. We have known the dodge
for some time at Scotland Yard."
Gregory tried to spring up straight, but he swayed thrice.
"What do you say?" he asked in an inhuman voice.
"Yes," said Syme simply, "I am a police detective. But I think I hear
your friends coming."
From the doorway there came a murmur of "Mr. Joseph Chamberlain." It
was repeated twice and thrice, and then thirty times, and the crowd of
Joseph Chamberlains (a solemn thought) could be heard trampling down the
CHAPTER III. THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY
BEFORE one of the fresh faces could appear at the doorway, Gregory's
stunned surprise had fallen from him. He was beside the table with a
bound, and a noise in his throat like a wild beast. He caught up the
Colt's revolver and took aim at Syme. Syme did not flinch, but he put up
a pale and polite hand.
"Don't be such a silly man," he said, with the effeminate dignity of a
curate. "Don't you see it's not necessary? Don't you see that we're both
in the same boat? Yes, and jolly sea-sick."
Gregory could not speak, but he could not fire either, and he looked his
"Don't you see we've checkmated each other?" cried Syme. "I can't tell
the police you are an anarchist. You can't tell the anarchists I'm a
policeman. I can only watch you, knowing what you are; you can only
watch me, knowing what I am. In short, it's a lonely, intellectual
duel, my head against yours. I'm a policeman deprived of the help of the
police. You, my poor fellow, are an anarchist deprived of the help of
that law and organisation which is so essential to anarchy. The one
solitary difference is in your favour. You are not surrounded by
inquisitive policemen; I am surrounded by inquisitive anarchists. I
cannot betray you, but I might betray myself. Come, come! wait and see
me betray myself. I shall do it so nicely."
Gregory put the pistol slowly down, still staring at Syme as if he were
"I don't believe in immortality," he said at last, "but if, after all
this, you were to break your word, God would make a hell only for you,
to howl in for ever."
"I shall not break my word," said Syme sternly, "nor will you break
yours. Here are your friends."
The mass of the anarchists entered the room heavily, with a slouching
and somewhat weary gait; but one little man, with a black beard and
glasses--a man somewhat of the type of Mr. Tim Healy--detached himself,
and bustled forward with some papers in his hand.
"Comrade Gregory," he said, "I suppose this man is a delegate?"
Gregory, taken by surprise, looked down and muttered the name of Syme;
but Syme replied almost pertly--
"I am glad to see that your gate is well enough guarded to make it hard
for anyone to be here who was not a delegate."
The brow of the little man with the black beard was, however, still
contracted with something like suspicion.
"What branch do you represent?" he asked sharply.
"I should hardly call it a branch," said Syme, laughing; "I should call
it at the very least a root."
"What do you mean?"
"The fact is," said Syme serenely, "the truth is I am a Sabbatarian. I
have been specially sent here to see that you show a due observance of
The little man dropped one of his papers, and a flicker of fear went
over all the faces of the group. Evidently the awful President, whose
name was Sunday, did sometimes send down such irregular ambassadors to
such branch meetings.
"Well, comrade," said the man with the papers after a pause, "I suppose
we'd better give you a seat in the meeting?"
"If you ask my advice as a friend," said Syme with severe benevolence,
"I think you'd better."
When Gregory heard the dangerous dialogue end, with a sudden safety for
his rival, he rose abruptly and paced the floor in painful thought. He
was, indeed, in an agony of diplomacy. It was clear that Syme's inspired
impudence was likely to bring him out of all merely accidental dilemmas.
Little was to be hoped from them. He could not himself betray Syme,
partly from honour, but partly also because, if he betrayed him and for
some reason failed to destroy him, the Syme who escaped would be a Syme
freed from all obligation of secrecy, a Syme who would simply walk
to the nearest police station. After all, it was only one night's
discussion, and only one detective who would know of it. He would let
out as little as possible of their plans that night, and then let Syme
go, and chance it.
He strode across to the group of anarchists, which was already
distributing itself along the benches.
"I think it is time we began," he said; "the steam-tug is waiting on the
river already. I move that Comrade Buttons takes the chair."
This being approved by a show of hands, the little man with the papers
slipped into the presidential seat.
"Comrades," he began, as sharp as a pistol-shot, "our meeting tonight
is important, though it need not be long. This branch has always had the
honour of electing Thursdays for the Central European Council. We have
elected many and splendid Thursdays. We all lament the sad decease of
the heroic worker who occupied the post until last week. As you know,
his services to the cause were considerable. He organised the great
dynamite coup of Brighton which, under happier circumstances, ought to
have killed everybody on the pier. As you also know, his death was as
self-denying as his life, for he died through his faith in a hygienic
mixture of chalk and water as a substitute for milk, which beverage he
regarded as barbaric, and as involving cruelty to the cow. Cruelty, or
anything approaching to cruelty, revolted him always. But it is not
to acclaim his virtues that we are met, but for a harder task. It is
difficult properly to praise his qualities, but it is more difficult to
replace them. Upon you, comrades, it devolves this evening to choose
out of the company present the man who shall be Thursday. If any comrade
suggests a name I will put it to the vote. If no comrade suggests a
name, I can only tell myself that that dear dynamiter, who is gone
from us, has carried into the unknowable abysses the last secret of his
virtue and his innocence."
There was a stir of almost inaudible applause, such as is sometimes
heard in church. Then a large old man, with a long and venerable white
beard, perhaps the only real working-man present, rose lumberingly and
"I move that Comrade Gregory be elected Thursday," and sat lumberingly
"Does anyone second?" asked the chairman.
A little man with a velvet coat and pointed beard seconded.
"Before I put the matter to the vote," said the chairman, "I will call
on Comrade Gregory to make a statement."
Gregory rose amid a great rumble of applause. His face was deadly pale,
so that by contrast his queer red hair looked almost scarlet. But he was
smiling and altogether at ease. He had made up his mind, and he saw
his best policy quite plain in front of him like a white road. His best
chance was to make a softened and ambiguous speech, such as would leave
on the detective's mind the impression that the anarchist brotherhood
was a very mild affair after all. He believed in his own literary power,
his capacity for suggesting fine shades and picking perfect words. He
thought that with care he could succeed, in spite of all the people
around him, in conveying an impression of the institution, subtly and
delicately false. Syme had once thought that anarchists, under all their
bravado, were only playing the fool. Could he not now, in the hour of
peril, make Syme think so again?
"Comrades," began Gregory, in a low but penetrating voice, "it is not
necessary for me to tell you what is my policy, for it is your policy
also. Our belief has been slandered, it has been disfigured, it has been
utterly confused and concealed, but it has never been altered. Those who
talk about anarchism and its dangers go everywhere and anywhere to get
their information, except to us, except to the fountain head. They learn
about anarchists from sixpenny novels; they learn about anarchists from
tradesmen's newspapers; they learn about anarchists from Ally Sloper's
Half-Holiday and the Sporting Times. They never learn about anarchists
from anarchists. We have no chance of denying the mountainous slanders
which are heaped upon our heads from one end of Europe to another. The
man who has always heard that we are walking plagues has never heard our
reply. I know that he will not hear it tonight, though my passion
were to rend the roof. For it is deep, deep under the earth that the
persecuted are permitted to assemble, as the Christians assembled in the
Catacombs. But if, by some incredible accident, there were here tonight
a man who all his life had thus immensely misunderstood us, I would put
this question to him: 'When those Christians met in those Catacombs,
what sort of moral reputation had they in the streets above? What tales
were told of their atrocities by one educated Roman to another? Suppose'
(I would say to him), 'suppose that we are only repeating that still
mysterious paradox of history. Suppose we seem as shocking as the
Christians because we are really as harmless as the Christians. Suppose
we seem as mad as the Christians because we are really as meek."'
The applause that had greeted the opening sentences had been gradually
growing fainter, and at the last word it stopped suddenly. In the abrupt
silence, the man with the velvet jacket said, in a high, squeaky voice--
"I'm not meek!"
"Comrade Witherspoon tells us," resumed Gregory, "that he is not meek.
Ah, how little he knows himself! His words are, indeed, extravagant; his
appearance is ferocious, and even (to an ordinary taste) unattractive.
But only the eye of a friendship as deep and delicate as mine can
perceive the deep foundation of solid meekness which lies at the base of
him, too deep even for himself to see. I repeat, we are the true early
Christians, only that we come too late. We are simple, as they revere
simple--look at Comrade Witherspoon. We are modest, as they were
modest--look at me. We are merciful--"
"No, no!" called out Mr. Witherspoon with the velvet jacket.
"I say we are merciful," repeated Gregory furiously, "as the early
Christians were merciful. Yet this did not prevent their being accused
of eating human flesh. We do not eat human flesh--"
"Shame!" cried Witherspoon. "Why not?"
"Comrade Witherspoon," said Gregory, with a feverish gaiety, "is anxious
to know why nobody eats him (laughter). In our society, at any rate,
which loves him sincerely, which is founded upon love--"
"No, no!" said Witherspoon, "down with love."
"Which is founded upon love," repeated Gregory, grinding his teeth,
"there will be no difficulty about the aims which we shall pursue as a
body, or which I should pursue were I chosen as the representative
of that body. Superbly careless of the slanders that represent us as
assassins and enemies of human society, we shall pursue with moral
courage and quiet intellectual pressure, the permanent ideals of
brotherhood and simplicity."
Gregory resumed his seat and passed his hand across his forehead. The
silence was sudden and awkward, but the chairman rose like an automaton,
and said in a colourless voice--
"Does anyone oppose the election of Comrade Gregory?"
The assembly seemed vague and sub-consciously disappointed, and Comrade
Witherspoon moved restlessly on his seat and muttered in his thick
beard. By the sheer rush of routine, however, the motion would have been
put and carried. But as the chairman was opening his mouth to put it,
Syme sprang to his feet and said in a small and quiet voice--
"Yes, Mr. Chairman, I oppose."
The most effective fact in oratory is an unexpected change in the voice.
Mr. Gabriel Syme evidently understood oratory. Having said these first
formal words in a moderated tone and with a brief simplicity, he made
his next word ring and volley in the vault as if one of the guns had
"Comrades!" he cried, in a voice that made every man jump out of his
boots, "have we come here for this? Do we live underground like rats in
order to listen to talk like this? This is talk we might listen to
while eating buns at a Sunday School treat. Do we line these walls with
weapons and bar that door with death lest anyone should come and hear
Comrade Gregory saying to us, 'Be good, and you will be happy,' 'Honesty
is the best policy,' and 'Virtue is its own reward'? There was not
a word in Comrade Gregory's address to which a curate could not have
listened with pleasure (hear, hear). But I am not a curate (loud
cheers), and I did not listen to it with pleasure (renewed cheers).
The man who is fitted to make a good curate is not fitted to make a
resolute, forcible, and efficient Thursday (hear, hear)."
"Comrade Gregory has told us, in only too apologetic a tone, that we
are not the enemies of society. But I say that we are the enemies
of society, and so much the worse for society. We are the enemies of
society, for society is the enemy of humanity, its oldest and its most
pitiless enemy (hear, hear). Comrade Gregory has told us (apologetically
again) that we are not murderers. There I agree. We are not murderers,
we are executioners (cheers)."
Ever since Syme had risen Gregory had sat staring at him, his face
idiotic with astonishment. Now in the pause his lips of clay parted, and
he said, with an automatic and lifeless distinctness--
"You damnable hypocrite!"
Syme looked straight into those frightful eyes with his own pale blue
ones, and said with dignity--
"Comrade Gregory accuses me of hypocrisy. He knows as well as I do that
I am keeping all my engagements and doing nothing but my duty. I do not
mince words. I do not pretend to. I say that Comrade Gregory is unfit
to be Thursday for all his amiable qualities. He is unfit to be Thursday
because of his amiable qualities. We do not want the Supreme Council of
Anarchy infected with a maudlin mercy (hear, hear). This is no time for
ceremonial politeness, neither is it a time for ceremonial modesty. I
set myself against Comrade Gregory as I would set myself against all the
Governments of Europe, because the anarchist who has given himself
to anarchy has forgotten modesty as much as he has forgotten pride
(cheers). I am not a man at all. I am a cause (renewed cheers). I set
myself against Comrade Gregory as impersonally and as calmly as I should
choose one pistol rather than another out of that rack upon the wall;
and I say that rather than have Gregory and his milk-and-water methods
on the Supreme Council, I would offer myself for election--"
His sentence was drowned in a deafening cataract of applause. The faces,
that had grown fiercer and fiercer with approval as his tirade grew more
and more uncompromising, were now distorted with grins of anticipation
or cloven with delighted cries. At the moment when he announced himself
as ready to stand for the post of Thursday, a roar of excitement and
assent broke forth, and became uncontrollable, and at the same moment
Gregory sprang to his feet, with foam upon his mouth, and shouted
against the shouting.
"Stop, you blasted madmen!" he cried, at the top of a voice that tore
his throat. "Stop, you--"
But louder than Gregory's shouting and louder than the roar of the room
came the voice of Syme, still speaking in a peal of pitiless thunder--
"I do not go to the Council to rebut that slander that calls us
murderers; I go to earn it (loud and prolonged cheering). To the priest
who says these men are the enemies of religion, to the judge who says
these men are the enemies of law, to the fat parliamentarian who says
these men are the enemies of order and public decency, to all these I
will reply, 'You are false kings, but you are true prophets. I am come
to destroy you, and to fulfil your prophecies.'"
The heavy clamour gradually died away, but before it had ceased
Witherspoon had jumped to his feet, his hair and beard all on end, and
"I move, as an amendment, that Comrade Syme be appointed to the post."
"Stop all this, I tell you!" cried Gregory, with frantic face and hands.
"Stop it, it is all--"
The voice of the chairman clove his speech with a cold accent.
"Does anyone second this amendment?" he said. A tall, tired man, with
melancholy eyes and an American chin beard, was observed on the back
bench to be slowly rising to his feet. Gregory had been screaming for
some time past; now there was a change in his accent, more shocking than
any scream. "I end all this!" he said, in a voice as heavy as stone.
"This man cannot be elected. He is a--"
"Yes," said Syme, quite motionless, "what is he?" Gregory's mouth worked
twice without sound; then slowly the blood began to crawl back into his
dead face. "He is a man quite inexperienced in our work," he said, and
sat down abruptly.
Before he had done so, the long, lean man with the American beard was
again upon his feet, and was repeating in a high American monotone--
"I beg to second the election of Comrade Syme."
"The amendment will, as usual, be put first," said Mr. Buttons, the
chairman, with mechanical rapidity.
"The question is that Comrade Syme--"
Gregory had again sprung to his feet, panting and passionate.
"Comrades," he cried out, "I am not a madman."
"Oh, oh!" said Mr. Witherspoon.
"I am not a madman," reiterated Gregory, with a frightful sincerity
which for a moment staggered the room, "but I give you a counsel which
you can call mad if you like. No, I will not call it a counsel, for I
can give you no reason for it. I will call it a command. Call it a mad
command, but act upon it. Strike, but hear me! Kill me, but obey me! Do
not elect this man." Truth is so terrible, even in fetters, that for
a moment Syme's slender and insane victory swayed like a reed. But you
could not have guessed it from Syme's bleak blue eyes. He merely began--
"Comrade Gregory commands--"
Then the spell was snapped, and one anarchist called out to Gregory--
"Who are you? You are not Sunday;" and another anarchist added in a
heavier voice, "And you are not Thursday."
"Comrades," cried Gregory, in a voice like that of a martyr who in an
ecstacy of pain has passed beyond pain, "it is nothing to me whether you
detest me as a tyrant or detest me as a slave. If you will not take my
command, accept my degradation. I kneel to you. I throw myself at your
feet. I implore you. Do not elect this man."
"Comrade Gregory," said the chairman after a painful pause, "this is
really not quite dignified."
For the first time in the proceedings there was for a few seconds a real
silence. Then Gregory fell back in his seat, a pale wreck of a man,
and the chairman repeated, like a piece of clock-work suddenly started
"The question is that Comrade Syme be elected to the post of Thursday on
the General Council."
The roar rose like the sea, the hands rose like a forest, and three
minutes afterwards Mr. Gabriel Syme, of the Secret Police Service, was
elected to the post of Thursday on the General Council of the Anarchists
Everyone in the room seemed to feel the tug waiting on the river, the
sword-stick and the revolver, waiting on the table. The instant the
election was ended and irrevocable, and Syme had received the paper
proving his election, they all sprang to their feet, and the fiery
groups moved and mixed in the room. Syme found himself, somehow or
other, face to face with Gregory, who still regarded him with a stare of
stunned hatred. They were silent for many minutes.
"You are a devil!" said Gregory at last.
"And you are a gentleman," said Syme with gravity.
"It was you that entrapped me," began Gregory, shaking from head to
foot, "entrapped me into--"
"Talk sense," said Syme shortly. "Into what sort of devils' parliament
have you entrapped me, if it comes to that? You made me swear before
I made you. Perhaps we are both doing what we think right. But what we
think right is so damned different that there can be nothing between
us in the way of concession. There is nothing possible between us but
honour and death," and he pulled the great cloak about his shoulders and
picked up the flask from the table.
"The boat is quite ready," said Mr. Buttons, bustling up. "Be good
enough to step this way."
With a gesture that revealed the shop-walker, he led Syme down a short,
iron-bound passage, the still agonised Gregory following feverishly at
their heels. At the end of the passage was a door, which Buttons opened
sharply, showing a sudden blue and silver picture of the moonlit river,
that looked like a scene in a theatre. Close to the opening lay a dark,
dwarfish steam-launch, like a baby dragon with one red eye.
Almost in the act of stepping on board, Gabriel Syme turned to the
"You have kept your word," he said gently, with his face in shadow. "You
are a man of honour, and I thank you. You have kept it even down to a
small particular. There was one special thing you promised me at the
beginning of the affair, and which you have certainly given me by the
end of it."
"What do you mean?" cried the chaotic Gregory. "What did I promise you?"
"A very entertaining evening," said Syme, and he made a military salute
with the sword-stick as the steamboat slid away.
CHAPTER IV. THE TALE OF A DETECTIVE
GABRIEL SYME was not merely a detective who pretended to be a poet;
he was really a poet who had become a detective. Nor was his hatred of
anarchy hypocritical. He was one of those who are driven early in life
into too conservative an attitude by the bewildering folly of most
revolutionists. He had not attained it by any tame tradition. His
respectability was spontaneous and sudden, a rebellion against
rebellion. He came of a family of cranks, in which all the oldest
people had all the newest notions. One of his uncles always walked about
without a hat, and another had made an unsuccessful attempt to walk
about with a hat and nothing else. His father cultivated art and
self-realisation; his mother went in for simplicity and hygiene. Hence
the child, during his tenderer years, was wholly unacquainted with any
drink between the extremes of absinth and cocoa, of both of which he
had a healthy dislike. The more his mother preached a more than Puritan
abstinence the more did his father expand into a more than
pagan latitude; and by the time the former had come to enforcing
vegetarianism, the latter had pretty well reached the point of defending
Being surrounded with every conceivable kind of revolt from infancy,
Gabriel had to revolt into something, so he revolted into the only thing
left--sanity. But there was just enough in him of the blood of these
fanatics to make even his protest for common sense a little too fierce
to be sensible. His hatred of modern lawlessness had been crowned also
by an accident. It happened that he was walking in a side street at the
instant of a dynamite outrage. He had been blind and deaf for a moment,
and then seen, the smoke clearing, the broken windows and the bleeding
faces. After that he went about as usual--quiet, courteous, rather
gentle; but there was a spot on his mind that was not sane. He did
not regard anarchists, as most of us do, as a handful of morbid men,
combining ignorance with intellectualism. He regarded them as a huge and
pitiless peril, like a Chinese invasion.
He poured perpetually into newspapers and their waste-paper baskets
a torrent of tales, verses and violent articles, warning men of this
deluge of barbaric denial. But he seemed to be getting no nearer his
enemy, and, what was worse, no nearer a living. As he paced the Thames
embankment, bitterly biting a cheap cigar and brooding on the advance of
Anarchy, there was no anarchist with a bomb in his pocket so savage or
so solitary as he. Indeed, he always felt that Government stood alone
and desperate, with its back to the wall. He was too quixotic to have
cared for it otherwise.
He walked on the Embankment once under a dark red sunset. The red river
reflected the red sky, and they both reflected his anger. The sky,
indeed, was so swarthy, and the light on the river relatively so
lurid, that the water almost seemed of fiercer flame than the sunset it
mirrored. It looked like a stream of literal fire winding under the vast
caverns of a subterranean country.
Syme was shabby in those days. He wore an old-fashioned black
chimney-pot hat; he was wrapped in a yet more old-fashioned cloak, black
and ragged; and the combination gave him the look of the early villains
in Dickens and Bulwer Lytton. Also his yellow beard and hair were more
unkempt and leonine than when they appeared long afterwards, cut and
pointed, on the lawns of Saffron Park. A long, lean, black cigar, bought
in Soho for twopence, stood out from between his tightened teeth, and
altogether he looked a very satisfactory specimen of the anarchists upon
whom he had vowed a holy war. Perhaps this was why a policeman on the
Embankment spoke to him, and said "Good evening."
Syme, at a crisis of his morbid fears for humanity, seemed stung by the
mere stolidity of the automatic official, a mere bulk of blue in the
"A good evening is it?" he said sharply. "You fellows would call the end
of the world a good evening. Look at that bloody red sun and that bloody
river! I tell you that if that were literally human blood, spilt and
shining, you would still be standing here as solid as ever, looking out
for some poor harmless tramp whom you could move on. You policemen are
cruel to the poor, but I could forgive you even your cruelty if it were
not for your calm."
"If we are calm," replied the policeman, "it is the calm of organised
"Eh?" said Syme, staring.
"The soldier must be calm in the thick of the battle," pursued the
policeman. "The composure of an army is the anger of a nation."
"Good God, the Board Schools!" said Syme. "Is this undenominational
"No," said the policeman sadly, "I never had any of those advantages.
The Board Schools came after my time. What education I had was very
rough and old-fashioned, I am afraid."
"Where did you have it?" asked Syme, wondering.
"Oh, at Harrow," said the policeman
The class sympathies which, false as they are, are the truest things in
so many men, broke out of Syme before he could control them.
"But, good Lord, man," he said, "you oughtn't to be a policeman!"
The policeman sighed and shook his head.
"I know," he said solemnly, "I know I am not worthy."
"But why did you join the police?" asked Syme with rude curiosity.
"For much the same reason that you abused the police," replied the
other. "I found that there was a special opening in the service
for those whose fears for humanity were concerned rather with the
aberrations of the scientific intellect than with the normal and
excusable, though excessive, outbreaks of the human will. I trust I make
"If you mean that you make your opinion clear," said Syme, "I suppose
you do. But as for making yourself clear, it is the last thing you do.
How comes a man like you to be talking philosophy in a blue helmet on
the Thames embankment?"
"You have evidently not heard of the latest development in our police
system," replied the other. "I am not surprised at it. We are keeping it
rather dark from the educated class, because that class contains most
of our enemies. But you seem to be exactly in the right frame of mind. I
think you might almost join us."
"Join you in what?" asked Syme.
"I will tell you," said the policeman slowly. "This is the situation:
The head of one of our departments, one of the most celebrated
detectives in Europe, has long been of opinion that a purely
intellectual conspiracy would soon threaten the very existence of
civilisation. He is certain that the scientific and artistic worlds are
silently bound in a crusade against the Family and the State. He has,
therefore, formed a special corps of policemen, policemen who are also
philosophers. It is their business to watch the beginnings of this
conspiracy, not merely in a criminal but in a controversial sense. I am
a democrat myself, and I am fully aware of the value of the ordinary
man in matters of ordinary valour or virtue. But it would obviously be
undesirable to employ the common policeman in an investigation which is
also a heresy hunt."
Syme's eyes were bright with a sympathetic curiosity.
"What do you do, then?" he said.
"The work of the philosophical policeman," replied the man in blue, "is
at once bolder and more subtle than that of the ordinary detective.
The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves; we go
to artistic tea-parties to detect pessimists. The ordinary detective
discovers from a ledger or a diary that a crime has been committed. We
discover from a book of sonnets that a crime will be committed. We have
to trace the origin of those dreadful thoughts that drive men on at last
to intellectual fanaticism and intellectual crime. We were only just in
time to prevent the assassination at Hartlepool, and that was entirely
due to the fact that our Mr. Wilks (a smart young fellow) thoroughly
understood a triolet."
"Do you mean," asked Syme, "that there is really as much connection
between crime and the modern intellect as all that?"
"You are not sufficiently democratic," answered the policeman, "but you
were right when you said just now that our ordinary treatment of the
poor criminal was a pretty brutal business. I tell you I am sometimes
sick of my trade when I see how perpetually it means merely a war upon
the ignorant and the desperate. But this new movement of ours is a
very different affair. We deny the snobbish English assumption that the
uneducated are the dangerous criminals. We remember the Roman Emperors.
We remember the great poisoning princes of the Renaissance. We say that
the dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. We say that the most
dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher.
Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my
heart goes out to them. They accept the essential ideal of man; they
merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely wish the
property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect
it. But philosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy
the very idea of personal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or
they would not go through the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic
formality of bigamy. But philosophers despise marriage as marriage.
Murderers respect human life; they merely wish to attain a greater
fulness of human life in themselves by the sacrifice of what seems to
them to be lesser lives. But philosophers hate life itself, their own as
much as other people's."
Syme struck his hands together.
"How true that is," he cried. "I have felt it from my boyhood, but never
could state the verbal antithesis. The common criminal is a bad man, but
at least he is, as it were, a conditional good man. He says that if only
a certain obstacle be removed--say a wealthy uncle--he is then prepared
to accept the universe and to praise God. He is a reformer, but not an
anarchist. He wishes to cleanse the edifice, but not to destroy it. But
the evil philosopher is not trying to alter things, but to annihilate
them. Yes, the modern world has retained all those parts of police work
which are really oppressive and ignominious, the harrying of the poor,
the spying upon the unfortunate. It has given up its more dignified
work, the punishment of powerful traitors in the State and powerful
heresiarchs in the Church. The moderns say we must not punish heretics.
My only doubt is whether we have a right to punish anybody else."
"But this is absurd!" cried the policeman, clasping his hands with an
excitement uncommon in persons of his figure and costume, "but it is
intolerable! I don't know what you're doing, but you're wasting your
life. You must, you shall, join our special army against anarchy. Their
armies are on our frontiers. Their bolt is ready to fall. A moment more,
and you may lose the glory of working with us, perhaps the glory of
dying with the last heroes of the world."
"It is a chance not to be missed, certainly," assented Syme, "but still
I do not quite understand. I know as well as anybody that the modern
world is full of lawless little men and mad little movements. But,
beastly as they are, they generally have the one merit of disagreeing
with each other. How can you talk of their leading one army or hurling
one bolt. What is this anarchy?"
"Do not confuse it," replied the constable, "with those chance dynamite
outbreaks from Russia or from Ireland, which are really the outbreaks
of oppressed, if mistaken, men. This is a vast philosophic movement,
consisting of an outer and an inner ring. You might even call the outer
ring the laity and the inner ring the priesthood. I prefer to call the
outer ring the innocent section, the inner ring the supremely guilty
section. The outer ring--the main mass of their supporters--are merely
anarchists; that is, men who believe that rules and formulas have
destroyed human happiness. They believe that all the evil results of
human crime are the results of the system that has called it crime. They
do not believe that the crime creates the punishment. They believe that
the punishment has created the crime. They believe that if a man seduced
seven women he would naturally walk away as blameless as the flowers of
spring. They believe that if a man picked a pocket he would naturally
feel exquisitely good. These I call the innocent section."
"Oh!" said Syme.
"Naturally, therefore, these people talk about 'a happy time coming';
'the paradise of the future'; 'mankind freed from the bondage of vice
and the bondage of virtue,' and so on. And so also the men of the inner
circle speak--the sacred priesthood. They also speak to applauding
crowds of the happiness of the future, and of mankind freed at last. But
in their mouths"--and the policeman lowered his voice--"in their
mouths these happy phrases have a horrible meaning. They are under no
illusions; they are too intellectual to think that man upon this earth
can ever be quite free of original sin and the struggle. And they mean
death. When they say that mankind shall be free at last, they mean that
mankind shall commit suicide. When they talk of a paradise without right
or wrong, they mean the grave.
"They have but two objects, to destroy first humanity and then
themselves. That is why they throw bombs instead of firing pistols. The
innocent rank and file are disappointed because the bomb has not killed
the king; but the high-priesthood are happy because it has killed
"How can I join you?" asked Syme, with a sort of passion.
"I know for a fact that there is a vacancy at the moment," said the
policeman, "as I have the honour to be somewhat in the confidence of
the chief of whom I have spoken. You should really come and see him. Or
rather, I should not say see him, nobody ever sees him; but you can talk
to him if you like."
"Telephone?" inquired Syme, with interest.
"No," said the policeman placidly, "he has a fancy for always sitting
in a pitch-dark room. He says it makes his thoughts brighter. Do come
Somewhat dazed and considerably excited, Syme allowed himself to be led
to a side-door in the long row of buildings of Scotland Yard. Almost
before he knew what he was doing, he had been passed through the hands
of about four intermediate officials, and was suddenly shown into a
room, the abrupt blackness of which startled him like a blaze of light.
It was not the ordinary darkness, in which forms can be faintly traced;
it was like going suddenly stone-blind.
"Are you the new recruit?" asked a heavy voice.
And in some strange way, though there was not the shadow of a shape
in the gloom, Syme knew two things: first, that it came from a man of
massive stature; and second, that the man had his back to him.
"Are you the new recruit?" said the invisible chief, who seemed to have
heard all about it. "All right. You are engaged."
Syme, quite swept off his feet, made a feeble fight against this
"I really have no experience," he began.
"No one has any experience," said the other, "of the Battle of
"But I am really unfit--"
"You are willing, that is enough," said the unknown.
"Well, really," said Syme, "I don't know any profession of which mere
willingness is the final test."
"I do," said the other--"martyrs. I am condemning you to death. Good
Thus it was that when Gabriel Syme came out again into the crimson light
of evening, in his shabby black hat and shabby, lawless cloak, he came
out a member of the New Detective Corps for the frustration of the great
conspiracy. Acting under the advice of his friend the policeman (who
was professionally inclined to neatness), he trimmed his hair and beard,
bought a good hat, clad himself in an exquisite summer suit of light
blue-grey, with a pale yellow flower in the button-hole, and, in short,
became that elegant and rather insupportable person whom Gregory had
first encountered in the little garden of Saffron Park. Before he
finally left the police premises his friend provided him with a small
blue card, on which was written, "The Last Crusade," and a number,
the sign of his official authority. He put this carefully in his upper
waistcoat pocket, lit a cigarette, and went forth to track and fight the
enemy in all the drawing-rooms of London. Where his adventure ultimately
led him we have already seen. At about half-past one on a February night
he found himself steaming in a small tug up the silent Thames, armed
with swordstick and revolver, the duly elected Thursday of the Central
Council of Anarchists.
When Syme stepped out on to the steam-tug he had a singular sensation of
stepping out into something entirely new; not merely into the landscape
of a new land, but even into the landscape of a new planet. This was
mainly due to the insane yet solid decision of that evening, though
partly also to an entire change in the weather and the sky since he
entered the little tavern some two hours before. Every trace of the
passionate plumage of the cloudy sunset had been swept away, and a naked
moon stood in a naked sky. The moon was so strong and full that (by a
paradox often to be noticed) it seemed like a weaker sun. It gave, not
the sense of bright moonshine, but rather of a dead daylight.
Over the whole landscape lay a luminous and unnatural discoloration, as
of that disastrous twilight which Milton spoke of as shed by the sun in
eclipse; so that Syme fell easily into his first thought, that he was
actually on some other and emptier planet, which circled round some
sadder star. But the more he felt this glittering desolation in the
moonlit land, the more his own chivalric folly glowed in the night like
a great fire. Even the common things he carried with him--the food and
the brandy and the loaded pistol--took on exactly that concrete and
material poetry which a child feels when he takes a gun upon a journey
or a bun with him to bed. The sword-stick and the brandy-flask,
though in themselves only the tools of morbid conspirators, became the
expressions of his own more healthy romance. The sword-stick
became almost the sword of chivalry, and the brandy the wine of the
stirrup-cup. For even the most dehumanised modern fantasies depend
on some older and simpler figure; the adventures may be mad, but the
adventurer must be sane. The dragon without St. George would not even
be grotesque. So this inhuman landscape was only imaginative by the
presence of a man really human. To Syme's exaggerative mind the bright,
bleak houses and terraces by the Thames looked as empty as the mountains
of the moon. But even the moon is only poetical because there is a man
in the moon.
The tug was worked by two men, and with much toil went comparatively
slowly. The clear moon that had lit up Chiswick had gone down by the
time that they passed Battersea, and when they came under the enormous
bulk of Westminster day had already begun to break. It broke like the
splitting of great bars of lead, showing bars of silver; and these had
brightened like white fire when the tug, changing its onward course,
turned inward to a large landing stage rather beyond Charing Cross.
The great stones of the Embankment seemed equally dark and gigantic as
Syme looked up at them. They were big and black against the huge white
dawn. They made him feel that he was landing on the colossal steps of
some Egyptian palace; and, indeed, the thing suited his mood, for he
was, in his own mind, mounting to attack the solid thrones of horrible
and heathen kings. He leapt out of the boat on to one slimy step, and
stood, a dark and slender figure, amid the enormous masonry. The two men
in the tug put her off again and turned up stream. They had never spoken
CHAPTER V. THE FEAST OF FEAR
AT first the large stone stair seemed to Syme as deserted as a pyramid;
but before he reached the top he had realised that there was a man
leaning over the parapet of the Embankment and looking out across the
river. As a figure he was quite conventional, clad in a silk hat and
frock-coat of the more formal type of fashion; he had a red flower in
his buttonhole. As Syme drew nearer to him step by step, he did not even
move a hair; and Syme could come close enough to notice even in the dim,
pale morning light that his face was long, pale and intellectual, and
ended in a small triangular tuft of dark beard at the very point of the
chin, all else being clean-shaven. This scrap of hair almost seemed
a mere oversight; the rest of the face was of the type that is best
shaven--clear-cut, ascetic, and in its way noble. Syme drew closer and
closer, noting all this, and still the figure did not stir.
At first an instinct had told Syme that this was the man whom he was
meant to meet. Then, seeing that the man made no sign, he had concluded
that he was not. And now again he had come back to a certainty that the
man had something to do with his mad adventure. For the man remained
more still than would have been natural if a stranger had come so close.
He was as motionless as a wax-work, and got on the nerves somewhat in
the same way. Syme looked again and again at the pale, dignified and
delicate face, and the face still looked blankly across the river. Then
he took out of his pocket the note from Buttons proving his election,
and put it before that sad and beautiful face. Then the man smiled, and
his smile was a shock, for it was all on one side, going up in the right
cheek and down in the left.
There was nothing, rationally speaking, to scare anyone about this. Many
people have this nervous trick of a crooked smile, and in many it is
even attractive. But in all Syme's circumstances, with the dark dawn and
the deadly errand and the loneliness on the great dripping stones, there
was something unnerving in it.
There was the silent river and the silent man, a man of even classic
face. And there was the last nightmare touch that his smile suddenly
The spasm of smile was instantaneous, and the man's face dropped at once
into its harmonious melancholy. He spoke without further explanation or
inquiry, like a man speaking to an old colleague.
"If we walk up towards Leicester Square," he said, "we shall just be in
time for breakfast. Sunday always insists on an early breakfast. Have
you had any sleep?"
"No," said Syme.
"Nor have I," answered the man in an ordinary tone. "I shall try to get
to bed after breakfast."
He spoke with casual civility, but in an utterly dead voice that
contradicted the fanaticism of his face. It seemed almost as if all
friendly words were to him lifeless conveniences, and that his only life
was hate. After a pause the man spoke again.
"Of course, the Secretary of the branch told you everything that can be
told. But the one thing that can never be told is the last notion of the
President, for his notions grow like a tropical forest. So in case you
don't know, I'd better tell you that he is carrying out his notion
of concealing ourselves by not concealing ourselves to the most
extraordinary lengths just now. Originally, of course, we met in a
cell underground, just as your branch does. Then Sunday made us take a
private room at an ordinary restaurant. He said that if you didn't seem
to be hiding nobody hunted you out. Well, he is the only man on earth, I
know; but sometimes I really think that his huge brain is going a little
mad in its old age. For now we flaunt ourselves before the public.
We have our breakfast on a balcony--on a balcony, if you
please--overlooking Leicester Square."
"And what do the people say?" asked Syme.
"It's quite simple what they say," answered his guide.
"They say we are a lot of jolly gentlemen who pretend they are
"It seems to me a very clever idea," said Syme.
"Clever! God blast your impudence! Clever!" cried out the other in
a sudden, shrill voice which was as startling and discordant as his
crooked smile. "When you've seen Sunday for a split second you'll leave
off calling him clever."
With this they emerged out of a narrow street, and saw the early
sunlight filling Leicester Square. It will never be known, I suppose,
why this square itself should look so alien and in some ways so
continental. It will never be known whether it was the foreign look that
attracted the foreigners or the foreigners who gave it the foreign look.
But on this particular morning the effect seemed singularly bright and
clear. Between the open square and the sunlit leaves and the statue and
the Saracenic outlines of the Alhambra, it looked the replica of some
French or even Spanish public place. And this effect increased in
Syme the sensation, which in many shapes he had had through the whole
adventure, the eerie sensation of having strayed into a new world. As a
fact, he had bought bad cigars round Leicester Square ever since he was
a boy. But as he turned that corner, and saw the trees and the Moorish
cupolas, he could have sworn that he was turning into an unknown Place
de something or other in some foreign town.
At one corner of the square there projected a kind of angle of a
prosperous but quiet hotel, the bulk of which belonged to a street
behind. In the wall there was one large French window, probably the
window of a large coffee-room; and outside this window, almost literally
overhanging the square, was a formidably buttressed balcony, big enough
to contain a dining-table. In fact, it did contain a dining-table, or
more strictly a breakfast-table; and round the breakfast-table, glowing
in the sunlight and evident to the street, were a group of noisy and
talkative men, all dressed in the insolence of fashion, with white
waistcoats and expensive button-holes. Some of their jokes could almost
be heard across the square. Then the grave Secretary gave his unnatural
smile, and Syme knew that this boisterous breakfast party was the secret
conclave of the European Dynamiters.
Then, as Syme continued to stare at them, he saw something that he had
not seen before. He had not seen it literally because it was too large
to see. At the nearest end of the balcony, blocking up a great part of
the perspective, was the back of a great mountain of a man. When Syme
had seen him, his first thought was that the weight of him must break
down the balcony of stone. His vastness did not lie only in the fact
that he was abnormally tall and quite incredibly fat. This man was
planned enormously in his original proportions, like a statue carved
deliberately as colossal. His head, crowned with white hair, as seen
from behind looked bigger than a head ought to be. The ears that stood
out from it looked larger than human ears. He was enlarged terribly to
scale; and this sense of size was so staggering, that when Syme saw
him all the other figures seemed quite suddenly to dwindle and become
dwarfish. They were still sitting there as before with their flowers and
frock-coats, but now it looked as if the big man was entertaining five
children to tea.
As Syme and the guide approached the side door of the hotel, a waiter
came out smiling with every tooth in his head.
"The gentlemen are up there, sare," he said. "They do talk and they do
laugh at what they talk. They do say they will throw bombs at ze king."
And the waiter hurried away with a napkin over his arm, much pleased
with the singular frivolity of the gentlemen upstairs.
The two men mounted the stairs in silence.
Syme had never thought of asking whether the monstrous man who almost
filled and broke the balcony was the great President of whom the others
stood in awe. He knew it was so, with an unaccountable but instantaneous
certainty. Syme, indeed, was one of those men who are open to all the
more nameless psychological influences in a degree a little dangerous
to mental health. Utterly devoid of fear in physical dangers, he was a
great deal too sensitive to the smell of spiritual evil. Twice already
that night little unmeaning things had peeped out at him almost
pruriently, and given him a sense of drawing nearer and nearer to the
head-quarters of hell. And this sense became overpowering as he drew
nearer to the great President.
The form it took was a childish and yet hateful fancy. As he walked
across the inner room towards the balcony, the large face of Sunday grew
larger and larger; and Syme was gripped with a fear that when he was
quite close the face would be too big to be possible, and that he would
scream aloud. He remembered that as a child he would not look at the
mask of Memnon in the British Museum, because it was a face, and so
By an effort, braver than that of leaping over a cliff, he went to an
empty seat at the breakfast-table and sat down. The men greeted him
with good-humoured raillery as if they had always known him. He sobered
himself a little by looking at their conventional coats and solid,
shining coffee-pot; then he looked again at Sunday. His face was very
large, but it was still possible to humanity.
In the presence of the President the whole company looked sufficiently
commonplace; nothing about them caught the eye at first, except that
by the President's caprice they had been dressed up with a festive
respectability, which gave the meal the look of a wedding breakfast. One
man indeed stood out at even a superficial glance. He at least was the
common or garden Dynamiter. He wore, indeed, the high white collar and
satin tie that were the uniform of the occasion; but out of this
collar there sprang a head quite unmanageable and quite unmistakable, a
bewildering bush of brown hair and beard that almost obscured the eyes
like those of a Skye terrier. But the eyes did look out of the tangle,
and they were the sad eyes of some Russian serf. The effect of this
figure was not terrible like that of the President, but it had every
diablerie that can come from the utterly grotesque. If out of that stiff
tie and collar there had come abruptly the head of a cat or a dog, it
could not have been a more idiotic contrast.
The man's name, it seemed, was Gogol; he was a Pole, and in this circle
of days he was called Tuesday. His soul and speech were incurably
tragic; he could not force himself to play the prosperous and frivolous
part demanded of him by President Sunday. And, indeed, when Syme came in
the President, with that daring disregard of public suspicion which was
his policy, was actually chaffing Gogol upon his inability to assume
"Our friend Tuesday," said the President in a deep voice at once of
quietude and volume, "our friend Tuesday doesn't seem to grasp the idea.
He dresses up like a gentleman, but he seems to be too great a soul to
behave like one. He insists on the ways of the stage conspirator. Now if
a gentleman goes about London in a top hat and a frock-coat, no one need
know that he is an anarchist. But if a gentleman puts on a top hat and
a frock-coat, and then goes about on his hands and knees--well, he may
attract attention. That's what Brother Gogol does. He goes about on his
hands and knees with such inexhaustible diplomacy, that by this time he
finds it quite difficult to walk upright."
"I am not good at goncealment," said Gogol sulkily, with a thick foreign
accent; "I am not ashamed of the cause."
"Yes you are, my boy, and so is the cause of you," said the President
good-naturedly. "You hide as much as anybody; but you can't do it, you
see, you're such an ass! You try to combine two inconsistent methods.
When a householder finds a man under his bed, he will probably pause to
note the circumstance. But if he finds a man under his bed in a top hat,
you will agree with me, my dear Tuesday, that he is not likely even to
forget it. Now when you were found under Admiral Biffin's bed--"
"I am not good at deception," said Tuesday gloomily, flushing.
"Right, my boy, right," said the President with a ponderous heartiness,
"you aren't good at anything."
While this stream of conversation continued, Syme was looking more
steadily at the men around him. As he did so, he gradually felt all his
sense of something spiritually queer return.
He had thought at first that they were all of common stature and
costume, with the evident exception of the hairy Gogol. But as he looked
at the others, he began to see in each of them exactly what he had seen
in the man by the river, a demoniac detail somewhere. That lop-sided
laugh, which would suddenly disfigure the fine face of his original
guide, was typical of all these types. Each man had something about
him, perceived perhaps at the tenth or twentieth glance, which was not
normal, and which seemed hardly human. The only metaphor he could think
of was this, that they all looked as men of fashion and presence would
look, with the additional twist given in a false and curved mirror.
Only the individual examples will express this half-concealed
eccentricity. Syme's original cicerone bore the title of Monday; he was
the Secretary of the Council, and his twisted smile was regarded with
more terror than anything, except the President's horrible, happy
laughter. But now that Syme had more space and light to observe him,
there were other touches. His fine face was so emaciated, that Syme
thought it must be wasted with some disease; yet somehow the very
distress of his dark eyes denied this. It was no physical ill that
troubled him. His eyes were alive with intellectual torture, as if pure
thought was pain.
He was typical of each of the tribe; each man was subtly and differently
wrong. Next to him sat Tuesday, the tousle-headed Gogol, a man more
obviously mad. Next was Wednesday, a certain Marquis de St. Eustache, a
sufficiently characteristic figure. The first few glances found nothing
unusual about him, except that he was the only man at table who wore
the fashionable clothes as if they were really his own. He had a black
French beard cut square and a black English frock-coat cut even squarer.
But Syme, sensitive to such things, felt somehow that the man carried a
rich atmosphere with him, a rich atmosphere that suffocated. It reminded
one irrationally of drowsy odours and of dying lamps in the darker
poems of Byron and Poe. With this went a sense of his being clad, not
in lighter colours, but in softer materials; his black seemed richer
and warmer than the black shades about him, as if it were compounded of
profound colour. His black coat looked as if it were only black by being
too dense a purple. His black beard looked as if it were only black by
being too deep a blue. And in the gloom and thickness of the beard his
dark red mouth showed sensual and scornful. Whatever he was he was not
a Frenchman; he might be a Jew; he might be something deeper yet in
the dark heart of the East. In the bright coloured Persian tiles and
pictures showing tyrants hunting, you may see just those almond eyes,
those blue-black beards, those cruel, crimson lips.
Then came Syme, and next a very old man, Professor de Worms, who still
kept the chair of Friday, though every day it was expected that his
death would leave it empty. Save for his intellect, he was in the last
dissolution of senile decay. His face was as grey as his long grey
beard, his forehead was lifted and fixed finally in a furrow of mild
despair. In no other case, not even that of Gogol, did the bridegroom
brilliancy of the morning dress express a more painful contrast. For
the red flower in his button-hole showed up against a face that was
literally discoloured like lead; the whole hideous effect was as if some
drunken dandies had put their clothes upon a corpse. When he rose or
sat down, which was with long labour and peril, something worse was
expressed than mere weakness, something indefinably connected with the
horror of the whole scene. It did not express decrepitude merely, but
corruption. Another hateful fancy crossed Syme's quivering mind. He
could not help thinking that whenever the man moved a leg or arm might
Right at the end sat the man called Saturday, the simplest and the most
baffling of all. He was a short, square man with a dark, square face
clean-shaven, a medical practitioner going by the name of Bull. He had
that combination of savoir-faire with a sort of well-groomed coarseness
which is not uncommon in young doctors. He carried his fine clothes with
confidence rather than ease, and he mostly wore a set smile. There was
nothing whatever odd about him, except that he wore a pair of dark,
almost opaque spectacles. It may have been merely a crescendo of nervous
fancy that had gone before, but those black discs were dreadful to Syme;
they reminded him of half-remembered ugly tales, of some story about
pennies being put on the eyes of the dead. Syme's eye always caught the
black glasses and the blind grin. Had the dying Professor worn them, or
even the pale Secretary, they would have been appropriate. But on the
younger and grosser man they seemed only an enigma. They took away the
key of the face. You could not tell what his smile or his gravity meant.
Partly from this, and partly because he had a vulgar virility wanting in
most of the others it seemed to Syme that he might be the wickedest of
all those wicked men. Syme even had the thought that his eyes might be
covered up because they were too frightful to see.
CHAPTER VI. THE EXPOSURE
SUCH were the six men who had sworn to destroy the world. Again and
again Syme strove to pull together his common sense in their presence.
Sometimes he saw for an instant that these notions were subjective,
that he was only looking at ordinary men, one of whom was old, another
nervous, another short-sighted. The sense of an unnatural symbolism
always settled back on him again. Each figure seemed to be, somehow, on
the borderland of things, just as their theory was on the borderland of
thought. He knew that each one of these men stood at the extreme end,
so to speak, of some wild road of reasoning. He could only fancy, as
in some old-world fable, that if a man went westward to the end of the
world he would find something--say a tree--that was more or less than a
tree, a tree possessed by a spirit; and that if he went east to the end
of the world he would find something else that was not wholly itself--a
tower, perhaps, of which the very shape was wicked. So these figures
seemed to stand up, violent and unaccountable, against an ultimate
horizon, visions from the verge. The ends of the earth were closing in.
Talk had been going on steadily as he took in the scene; and not the
least of the contrasts of that bewildering breakfast-table was the
contrast between the easy and unobtrusive tone of talk and its terrible
purport. They were deep in the discussion of an actual and immediate
plot. The waiter downstairs had spoken quite correctly when he said that
they were talking about bombs and kings. Only three days afterwards the
Czar was to meet the President of the French Republic in Paris, and over
their bacon and eggs upon their sunny balcony these beaming gentlemen
had decided how both should die. Even the instrument was chosen; the
black-bearded Marquis, it appeared, was to carry the bomb.
Ordinarily speaking, the proximity of this positive and objective
crime would have sobered Syme, and cured him of all his merely mystical
tremors. He would have thought of nothing but the need of saving at
least two human bodies from being ripped in pieces with iron and roaring
gas. But the truth was that by this time he had begun to feel a
third kind of fear, more piercing and practical than either his moral
revulsion or his social responsibility. Very simply, he had no fear to
spare for the French President or the Czar; he had begun to fear for
himself. Most of the talkers took little heed of him, debating now with
their faces closer together, and almost uniformly grave, save when for
an instant the smile of the Secretary ran aslant across his face as
the jagged lightning runs aslant across the sky. But there was one
persistent thing which first troubled Syme and at last terrified him.
The President was always looking at him, steadily, and with a great and
baffling interest. The enormous man was quite quiet, but his blue eyes
stood out of his head. And they were always fixed on Syme.
Syme felt moved to spring up and leap over the balcony. When the
President's eyes were on him he felt as if he were made of glass. He had
hardly the shred of a doubt that in some silent and extraordinary way
Sunday had found out that he was a spy. He looked over the edge of
the balcony, and saw a policeman, standing abstractedly just beneath,
staring at the bright railings and the sunlit trees.
Then there fell upon him the great temptation that was to torment him
for many days. In the presence of these powerful and repulsive men,
who were the princes of anarchy, he had almost forgotten the frail and
fanciful figure of the poet Gregory, the mere aesthete of anarchism.
He even thought of him now with an old kindness, as if they had played
together when children. But he remembered that he was still tied to
Gregory by a great promise. He had promised never to do the very thing
that he now felt himself almost in the act of doing. He had promised not
to jump over that balcony and speak to that policeman. He took his cold
hand off the cold stone balustrade. His soul swayed in a vertigo of
moral indecision. He had only to snap the thread of a rash vow made to
a villainous society, and all his life could be as open and sunny as
the square beneath him. He had, on the other hand, only to keep his
antiquated honour, and be delivered inch by inch into the power of this
great enemy of mankind, whose very intellect was a torture-chamber.
Whenever he looked down into the square he saw the comfortable
policeman, a pillar of common sense and common order. Whenever he looked
back at the breakfast-table he saw the President still quietly studying
him with big, unbearable eyes.
In all the torrent of his thought there were two thoughts that never
crossed his mind. First, it never occurred to him to doubt that the
President and his Council could crush him if he continued to stand
alone. The place might be public, the project might seem impossible.
But Sunday was not the man who would carry himself thus easily without
having, somehow or somewhere, set open his iron trap. Either by
anonymous poison or sudden street accident, by hypnotism or by fire from
hell, Sunday could certainly strike him. If he defied the man he was
probably dead, either struck stiff there in his chair or long afterwards
as by an innocent ailment. If he called in the police promptly, arrested
everyone, told all, and set against them the whole energy of England, he
would probably escape; certainly not otherwise. They were a balconyful
of gentlemen overlooking a bright and busy square; but he felt no
more safe with them than if they had been a boatful of armed pirates
overlooking an empty sea.
There was a second thought that never came to him. It never occurred to
him to be spiritually won over to the enemy. Many moderns, inured to
a weak worship of intellect and force, might have wavered in their
allegiance under this oppression of a great personality. They might have
called Sunday the super-man. If any such creature be conceivable, he
looked, indeed, somewhat like it, with his earth-shaking abstraction,
as of a stone statue walking. He might have been called something above
man, with his large plans, which were too obvious to be detected, with
his large face, which was too frank to be understood. But this was a
kind of modern meanness to which Syme could not sink even in his extreme
morbidity. Like any man, he was coward enough to fear great force; but
he was not quite coward enough to admire it.
The men were eating as they talked, and even in this they were typical.
Dr. Bull and the Marquis ate casually and conventionally of the best
things on the table--cold pheasant or Strasbourg pie. But the Secretary
was a vegetarian, and he spoke earnestly of the projected murder over
half a raw tomato and three quarters of a glass of tepid water. The old
Professor had such slops as suggested a sickening second childhood. And
even in this President Sunday preserved his curious predominance of mere
mass. For he ate like twenty men; he ate incredibly, with a frightful
freshness of appetite, so that it was like watching a sausage factory.
Yet continually, when he had swallowed a dozen crumpets or drunk a quart
of coffee, he would be found with his great head on one side staring at
"I have often wondered," said the Marquis, taking a great bite out of a
slice of bread and jam, "whether it wouldn't be better for me to do
it with a knife. Most of the best things have been brought off with
a knife. And it would be a new emotion to get a knife into a French
President and wriggle it round."
"You are wrong," said the Secretary, drawing his black brows together.
"The knife was merely the expression of the old personal quarrel with
a personal tyrant. Dynamite is not only our best tool, but our best
symbol. It is as perfect a symbol of us as is incense of the prayers of
the Christians. It expands; it only destroys because it broadens; even
so, thought only destroys because it broadens. A man's brain is a bomb,"
he cried out, loosening suddenly his strange passion and striking his
own skull with violence. "My brain feels like a bomb, night and day. It
must expand! It must expand! A man's brain must expand, if it breaks up
"I don't want the universe broken up just yet," drawled the Marquis.
"I want to do a lot of beastly things before I die. I thought of one
yesterday in bed."
"No, if the only end of the thing is nothing," said Dr. Bull with his
sphinx-like smile, "it hardly seems worth doing."
The old Professor was staring at the ceiling with dull eyes.
"Every man knows in his heart," he said, "that nothing is worth doing."
There was a singular silence, and then the Secretary said--
"We are wandering, however, from the point. The only question is how
Wednesday is to strike the blow. I take it we should all agree with
the original notion of a bomb. As to the actual arrangements, I should
suggest that tomorrow morning he should go first of all to--"
The speech was broken off short under a vast shadow. President Sunday
had risen to his feet, seeming to fill the sky above them.
"Before we discuss that," he said in a small, quiet voice, "let us go
into a private room. I have something very particular to say."
Syme stood up before any of the others. The instant of choice had come
at last, the pistol was at his head. On the pavement before he could
hear the policeman idly stir and stamp, for the morning, though bright,
A barrel-organ in the street suddenly sprang with a jerk into a jovial
tune. Syme stood up taut, as if it had been a bugle before the battle.
He found himself filled with a supernatural courage that came from
nowhere. That jingling music seemed full of the vivacity, the vulgarity,
and the irrational valour of the poor, who in all those unclean streets
were all clinging to the decencies and the charities of Christendom. His
youthful prank of being a policeman had faded from his mind; he did not
think of himself as the representative of the corps of gentlemen turned
into fancy constables, or of the old eccentric who lived in the dark
room. But he did feel himself as the ambassador of all these common and
kindly people in the street, who every day marched into battle to the
music of the barrel-organ. And this high pride in being human had lifted
him unaccountably to an infinite height above the monstrous men around
him. For an instant, at least, he looked down upon all their sprawling
eccentricities from the starry pinnacle of the commonplace. He felt
towards them all that unconscious and elementary superiority that a
brave man feels over powerful beasts or a wise man over powerful errors.
He knew that he had neither the intellectual nor the physical strength
of President Sunday; but in that moment he minded it no more than the
fact that he had not the muscles of a tiger or a horn on his nose like
a rhinoceros. All was swallowed up in an ultimate certainty that the
President was wrong and that the barrel-organ was right. There clanged
in his mind that unanswerable and terrible truism in the song of
"Pagens ont tort et Chretiens ont droit."
which in the old nasal French has the clang and groan of great iron.
This liberation of his spirit from the load of his weakness went with a
quite clear decision to embrace death. If the people of the barrel-organ
could keep their old-world obligations, so could he. This very pride in
keeping his word was that he was keeping it to miscreants. It was his
last triumph over these lunatics to go down into their dark room and
die for something that they could not even understand. The barrel-organ
seemed to give the marching tune with the energy and the mingled noises
of a whole orchestra; and he could hear deep and rolling, under all the
trumpets of the pride of life, the drums of the pride of death.
The conspirators were already filing through the open window and into
the rooms behind. Syme went last, outwardly calm, but with all his brain
and body throbbing with romantic rhythm. The President led them down an
irregular side stair, such as might be used by servants, and into a dim,
cold, empty room, with a table and benches, like an abandoned boardroom.
When they were all in, he closed and locked the door.
The first to speak was Gogol, the irreconcilable, who seemed bursting
with inarticulate grievance.
"Zso! Zso!" he cried, with an obscure excitement, his heavy Polish
accent becoming almost impenetrable. "You zay you nod 'ide. You zay you
show himselves. It is all nuzzinks. Ven you vant talk importance you run
yourselves in a dark box!"
The President seemed to take the foreigner's incoherent satire with
entire good humour.
"You can't get hold of it yet, Gogol," he said in a fatherly way. "When
once they have heard us talking nonsense on that balcony they will not
care where we go afterwards. If we had come here first, we should have
had the whole staff at the keyhole. You don't seem to know anything
"I die for zem," cried the Pole in thick excitement, "and I slay zare
oppressors. I care not for these games of gonzealment. I would zmite ze
tyrant in ze open square."
"I see, I see," said the President, nodding kindly as he seated himself
at the top of a long table. "You die for mankind first, and then you get
up and smite their oppressors. So that's all right. And now may I ask
you to control your beautiful sentiments, and sit down with the other
gentlemen at this table. For the first time this morning something
intelligent is going to be said."
Syme, with the perturbed promptitude he had shown since the original
summons, sat down first. Gogol sat down last, grumbling in his brown
beard about gombromise. No one except Syme seemed to have any notion of
the blow that was about to fall. As for him, he had merely the feeling
of a man mounting the scaffold with the intention, at any rate, of
making a good speech.
"Comrades," said the President, suddenly rising, "we have spun out this
farce long enough. I have called you down here to tell you something so
simple and shocking that even the waiters upstairs (long inured to our
levities) might hear some new seriousness in my voice. Comrades, we were
discussing plans and naming places. I propose, before saying anything
else, that those plans and places should not be voted by this meeting,
but should be left wholly in the control of some one reliable member. I
suggest Comrade Saturday, Dr. Bull."
They all stared at him; then they all started in their seats, for the
next words, though not loud, had a living and sensational emphasis.
Sunday struck the table.
"Not one word more about the plans and places must be said at this
meeting. Not one tiny detail more about what we mean to do must be
mentioned in this company."
Sunday had spent his life in astonishing his followers; but it seemed
as if he had never really astonished them until now. They all moved
feverishly in their seats, except Syme. He sat stiff in his, with his
hand in his pocket, and on the handle of his loaded revolver. When the
attack on him came he would sell his life dear. He would find out at
least if the President was mortal.
Sunday went on smoothly--
"You will probably understand that there is only one possible motive
for forbidding free speech at this festival of freedom. Strangers
overhearing us matters nothing. They assume that we are joking. But
what would matter, even unto death, is this, that there should be one
actually among us who is not of us, who knows our grave purpose, but
does not share it, who--"
The Secretary screamed out suddenly like a woman.
"It can't be!" he cried, leaping. "There can't--"
The President flapped his large flat hand on the table like the fin of
some huge fish.
"Yes," he said slowly, "there is a spy in this room. There is a traitor
at this table. I will waste no more words. His name--"
Syme half rose from his seat, his finger firm on the trigger.
"His name is Gogol," said the President. "He is that hairy humbug over
there who pretends to be a Pole."
Gogol sprang to his feet, a pistol in each hand. With the same flash
three men sprang at his throat. Even the Professor made an effort
to rise. But Syme saw little of the scene, for he was blinded with a
beneficent darkness; he had sunk down into his seat shuddering, in a
palsy of passionate relief.
CHAPTER VII. THE UNACCOUNTABLE CONDUCT OF PROFESSOR DE WORMS
"SIT down!" said Sunday in a voice that he used once or twice in his
life, a voice that made men drop drawn swords.
The three who had risen fell away from Gogol, and that equivocal person
himself resumed his seat.
"Well, my man," said the President briskly, addressing him as one
addresses a total stranger, "will you oblige me by putting your hand in
your upper waistcoat pocket and showing me what you have there?"
The alleged Pole was a little pale under his tangle of dark hair, but he
put two fingers into the pocket with apparent coolness and pulled out
a blue strip of card. When Syme saw it lying on the table, he woke up
again to the world outside him. For although the card lay at the other
extreme of the table, and he could read nothing of the inscription on
it, it bore a startling resemblance to the blue card in his own pocket,
the card which had been given to him when he joined the anti-anarchist
"Pathetic Slav," said the President, "tragic child of Poland, are you
prepared in the presence of that card to deny that you are in this
company--shall we say de trop?"
"Right oh!" said the late Gogol. It made everyone jump to hear a clear,
commercial and somewhat cockney voice coming out of that forest of
foreign hair. It was irrational, as if a Chinaman had suddenly spoken
with a Scotch accent.
"I gather that you fully understand your position," said Sunday.
"You bet," answered the Pole. "I see it's a fair cop. All I say is, I
don't believe any Pole could have imitated my accent like I did his."
"I concede the point," said Sunday. "I believe your own accent to be
inimitable, though I shall practise it in my bath. Do you mind leaving
your beard with your card?"
"Not a bit," answered Gogol; and with one finger he ripped off the whole
of his shaggy head-covering, emerging with thin red hair and a pale,
pert face. "It was hot," he added.
"I will do you the justice to say," said Sunday, not without a sort of
brutal admiration, "that you seem to have kept pretty cool under it. Now
listen to me. I like you. The consequence is that it would annoy me
for just about two and a half minutes if I heard that you had died in
torments. Well, if you ever tell the police or any human soul about
us, I shall have that two and a half minutes of discomfort. On your
discomfort I will not dwell. Good day. Mind the step."
The red-haired detective who had masqueraded as Gogol rose to his
feet without a word, and walked out of the room with an air of perfect
nonchalance. Yet the astonished Syme was able to realise that this ease
was suddenly assumed; for there was a slight stumble outside the door,
which showed that the departing detective had not minded the step.
"Time is flying," said the President in his gayest manner, after
glancing at his watch, which like everything about him seemed bigger
than it ought to be. "I must go off at once; I have to take the chair at
a Humanitarian meeting."
The Secretary turned to him with working eyebrows.
"Would it not be better," he said a little sharply, "to discuss further
the details of our project, now that the spy has left us?"
"No, I think not," said the President with a yawn like an unobtrusive
earthquake. "Leave it as it is. Let Saturday settle it. I must be off.
Breakfast here next Sunday."
But the late loud scenes had whipped up the almost naked nerves of the
Secretary. He was one of those men who are conscientious even in crime.
"I must protest, President, that the thing is irregular," he said. "It
is a fundamental rule of our society that all plans shall be debated in
full council. Of course, I fully appreciate your forethought when in the
actual presence of a traitor--"
"Secretary," said the President seriously, "if you'd take your head home
and boil it for a turnip it might be useful. I can't say. But it might."
The Secretary reared back in a kind of equine anger.
"I really fail to understand--" he began in high offense.
"That's it, that's it," said the President, nodding a great many times.
"That's where you fail right enough. You fail to understand. Why, you
dancing donkey," he roared, rising, "you didn't want to be overheard by
a spy, didn't you? How do you know you aren't overheard now?"
And with these words he shouldered his way out of the room, shaking with
Four of the men left behind gaped after him without any apparent
glimmering of his meaning. Syme alone had even a glimmering, and such
as it was it froze him to the bone. If the last words of the President
meant anything, they meant that he had not after all passed unsuspected.
They meant that while Sunday could not denounce him like Gogol, he still
could not trust him like the others.
The other four got to their feet grumbling more or less, and betook
themselves elsewhere to find lunch, for it was already well past midday.
The Professor went last, very slowly and painfully. Syme sat long after
the rest had gone, revolving his strange position. He had escaped a
thunderbolt, but he was still under a cloud. At last he rose and made
his way out of the hotel into Leicester Square. The bright, cold day had
grown increasingly colder, and when he came out into the street he
was surprised by a few flakes of snow. While he still carried the
sword-stick and the rest of Gregory's portable luggage, he had thrown
the cloak down and left it somewhere, perhaps on the steam-tug, perhaps
on the balcony. Hoping, therefore, that the snow-shower might be slight,
he stepped back out of the street for a moment and stood up under the
doorway of a small and greasy hair-dresser's shop, the front window of
which was empty, except for a sickly wax lady in evening dress.
Snow, however, began to thicken and fall fast; and Syme, having found
one glance at the wax lady quite sufficient to depress his spirits,
stared out instead into the white and empty street. He was considerably
astonished to see, standing quite still outside the shop and staring
into the window, a man. His top hat was loaded with snow like the hat of
Father Christmas, the white drift was rising round his boots and ankles;
but it seemed as if nothing could tear him away from the contemplation
of the colourless wax doll in dirty evening dress. That any human being
should stand in such weather looking into such a shop was a matter of
sufficient wonder to Syme; but his idle wonder turned suddenly into
a personal shock; for he realised that the man standing there was the
paralytic old Professor de Worms. It scarcely seemed the place for a
person of his years and infirmities.
Syme was ready to believe anything about the perversions of this
dehumanized brotherhood; but even he could not believe that the
Professor had fallen in love with that particular wax lady. He could
only suppose that the man's malady (whatever it was) involved some
momentary fits of rigidity or trance. He was not inclined, however, to
feel in this case any very compassionate concern. On the contrary,
he rather congratulated himself that the Professor's stroke and his
elaborate and limping walk would make it easy to escape from him and
leave him miles behind. For Syme thirsted first and last to get clear
of the whole poisonous atmosphere, if only for an hour. Then he could
collect his thoughts, formulate his policy, and decide finally whether
he should or should not keep faith with Gregory.
He strolled away through the dancing snow, turned up two or three
streets, down through two or three others, and entered a small Soho
restaurant for lunch. He partook reflectively of four small and quaint
courses, drank half a bottle of red wine, and ended up over black coffee
and a black cigar, still thinking. He had taken his seat in the upper
room of the restaurant, which was full of the chink of knives and the
chatter of foreigners. He remembered that in old days he had imagined
that all these harmless and kindly aliens were anarchists. He shuddered,
remembering the real thing. But even the shudder had the delightful
shame of escape. The wine, the common food, the familiar place, the
faces of natural and talkative men, made him almost feel as if the
Council of the Seven Days had been a bad dream; and although he knew it
was nevertheless an objective reality, it was at least a distant one.
Tall houses and populous streets lay between him and his last sight of
the shameful seven; he was free in free London, and drinking wine among
the free. With a somewhat easier action, he took his hat and stick and
strolled down the stair into the shop below.
When he entered that lower room he stood stricken and rooted to the
spot. At a small table, close up to the blank window and the white
street of snow, sat the old anarchist Professor over a glass of milk,
with his lifted livid face and pendent eyelids. For an instant Syme
stood as rigid as the stick he leant upon. Then with a gesture as of
blind hurry, he brushed past the Professor, dashing open the door and
slamming it behind him, and stood outside in the snow.
"Can that old corpse be following me?" he asked himself, biting his
yellow moustache. "I stopped too long up in that room, so that even
such leaden feet could catch me up. One comfort is, with a little brisk
walking I can put a man like that as far away as Timbuctoo. Or am I too
fanciful? Was he really following me? Surely Sunday would not be such a
fool as to send a lame man?"
He set off at a smart pace, twisting and whirling his stick, in the
direction of Covent Garden. As he crossed the great market the snow
increased, growing blinding and bewildering as the afternoon began
to darken. The snow-flakes tormented him like a swarm of silver bees.
Getting into his eyes and beard, they added their unremitting futility
to his already irritated nerves; and by the time that he had come at a
swinging pace to the beginning of Fleet Street, he lost patience, and
finding a Sunday teashop, turned into it to take shelter. He ordered
another cup of black coffee as an excuse. Scarcely had he done so,
when Professor de Worms hobbled heavily into the shop, sat down with
difficulty and ordered a glass of milk.
Syme's walking-stick had fallen from his hand with a great clang, which
confessed the concealed steel. But the Professor did not look round.
Syme, who was commonly a cool character, was literally gaping as a
rustic gapes at a conjuring trick. He had seen no cab following; he had
heard no wheels outside the shop; to all mortal appearances the man had
come on foot. But the old man could only walk like a snail, and Syme had
walked like the wind. He started up and snatched his stick, half crazy
with the contradiction in mere arithmetic, and swung out of the swinging
doors, leaving his coffee untasted. An omnibus going to the Bank went
rattling by with an unusual rapidity. He had a violent run of a
hundred yards to reach it; but he managed to spring, swaying upon the
splash-board and, pausing for an instant to pant, he climbed on to the
top. When he had been seated for about half a minute, he heard behind
him a sort of heavy and asthmatic breathing.
Turning sharply, he saw rising gradually higher and higher up the
omnibus steps a top hat soiled and dripping with snow, and under
the shadow of its brim the short-sighted face and shaky shoulders of
Professor de Worms. He let himself into a seat with characteristic care,
and wrapped himself up to the chin in the mackintosh rug.
Every movement of the old man's tottering figure and vague hands, every
uncertain gesture and panic-stricken pause, seemed to put it beyond
question that he was helpless, that he was in the last imbecility of
the body. He moved by inches, he let himself down with little gasps
of caution. And yet, unless the philosophical entities called time and
space have no vestige even of a practical existence, it appeared quite
unquestionable that he had run after the omnibus.
Syme sprang erect upon the rocking car, and after staring wildly at the
wintry sky, that grew gloomier every moment, he ran down the steps. He
had repressed an elemental impulse to leap over the side.
Too bewildered to look back or to reason, he rushed into one of the
little courts at the side of Fleet Street as a rabbit rushes into a
hole. He had a vague idea, if this incomprehensible old Jack-in-the-box
was really pursuing him, that in that labyrinth of little streets he
could soon throw him off the scent. He dived in and out of those crooked
lanes, which were more like cracks than thoroughfares; and by the time
that he had completed about twenty alternate angles and described an
unthinkable polygon, he paused to listen for any sound of pursuit. There
was none; there could not in any case have been much, for the little
streets were thick with the soundless snow. Somewhere behind Red Lion
Court, however, he noticed a place where some energetic citizen had
cleared away the snow for a space of about twenty yards, leaving the
wet, glistening cobble-stones. He thought little of this as he passed
it, only plunging into yet another arm of the maze. But when a few
hundred yards farther on he stood still again to listen, his heart stood
still also, for he heard from that space of rugged stones the clinking
crutch and labouring feet of the infernal cripple.
The sky above was loaded with the clouds of snow, leaving London in a
darkness and oppression premature for that hour of the evening. On each
side of Syme the walls of the alley were blind and featureless; there
was no little window or any kind of eve. He felt a new impulse to break
out of this hive of houses, and to get once more into the open and
lamp-lit street. Yet he rambled and dodged for a long time before he
struck the main thoroughfare. When he did so, he struck it much farther
up than he had fancied. He came out into what seemed the vast and void
of Ludgate Circus, and saw St. Paul's Cathedral sitting in the sky.
At first he was startled to find these great roads so empty, as if a
pestilence had swept through the city. Then he told himself that some
degree of emptiness was natural; first because the snow-storm was even
dangerously deep, and secondly because it was Sunday. And at the very
word Sunday he bit his lip; the word was henceforth for hire like some
indecent pun. Under the white fog of snow high up in the heaven the
whole atmosphere of the city was turned to a very queer kind of green
twilight, as of men under the sea. The sealed and sullen sunset
behind the dark dome of St. Paul's had in it smoky and sinister
colours--colours of sickly green, dead red or decaying bronze, that were
just bright enough to emphasise the solid whiteness of the snow.
But right up against these dreary colours rose the black bulk of the
cathedral; and upon the top of the cathedral was a random splash and
great stain of snow, still clinging as to an Alpine peak. It had fallen
accidentally, but just so fallen as to half drape the dome from its very
topmost point, and to pick out in perfect silver the great orb and the
cross. When Syme saw it he suddenly straightened himself, and made with
his sword-stick an involuntary salute.
He knew that that evil figure, his shadow, was creeping quickly or
slowly behind him, and he did not care.
It seemed a symbol of human faith and valour that while the skies were
darkening that high place of the earth was bright. The devils might have
captured heaven, but they had not yet captured the cross. He had a new
impulse to tear out the secret of this dancing, jumping and pursuing
paralytic; and at the entrance of the court as it opened upon the Circus
he turned, stick in hand, to face his pursuer.
Professor de Worms came slowly round the corner of the irregular alley
behind him, his unnatural form outlined against a lonely gas-lamp,
irresistibly recalling that very imaginative figure in the nursery
rhymes, "the crooked man who went a crooked mile." He really looked as
if he had been twisted out of shape by the tortuous streets he had
been threading. He came nearer and nearer, the lamplight shining on his
lifted spectacles, his lifted, patient face. Syme waited for him as St.
George waited for the dragon, as a man waits for a final explanation
or for death. And the old Professor came right up to him and passed him
like a total stranger, without even a blink of his mournful eyelids.
There was something in this silent and unexpected innocence that left
Syme in a final fury. The man's colourless face and manner seemed
to assert that the whole following had been an accident. Syme was
galvanised with an energy that was something between bitterness and a
burst of boyish derision. He made a wild gesture as if to knock the old
man's hat off, called out something like "Catch me if you can," and went
racing away across the white, open Circus. Concealment was impossible
now; and looking back over his shoulder, he could see the black figure
of the old gentleman coming after him with long, swinging strides like a
man winning a mile race. But the head upon that bounding body was still
pale, grave and professional, like the head of a lecturer upon the body
of a harlequin.
This outrageous chase sped across Ludgate Circus, up Ludgate Hill,
round St. Paul's Cathedral, along Cheapside, Syme remembering all the
nightmares he had ever known. Then Syme broke away towards the river,
and ended almost down by the docks. He saw the yellow panes of a low,
lighted public-house, flung himself into it and ordered beer. It was a
foul tavern, sprinkled with foreign sailors, a place where opium might
be smoked or knives drawn.
A moment later Professor de Worms entered the place, sat down carefully,
and asked for a glass of milk.
CHAPTER VIII. THE PROFESSOR EXPLAINS
WHEN Gabriel Syme found himself finally established in a chair, and
opposite to him, fixed and final also, the lifted eyebrows and
leaden eyelids of the Professor, his fears fully returned. This
incomprehensible man from the fierce council, after all, had certainly
pursued him. If the man had one character as a paralytic and another
character as a pursuer, the antithesis might make him more interesting,
but scarcely more soothing. It would be a very small comfort that
he could not find the Professor out, if by some serious accident the
Professor should find him out. He emptied a whole pewter pot of ale
before the professor had touched his milk.
One possibility, however, kept him hopeful and yet helpless. It was just
possible that this escapade signified something other than even a slight
suspicion of him. Perhaps it was some regular form or sign. Perhaps the
foolish scamper was some sort of friendly signal that he ought to have
understood. Perhaps it was a ritual. Perhaps the new Thursday was always
chased along Cheapside, as the new Lord Mayor is always escorted along
it. He was just selecting a tentative inquiry, when the old Professor
opposite suddenly and simply cut him short. Before Syme could ask the
first diplomatic question, the old anarchist had asked suddenly, without
any sort of preparation--
"Are you a policeman?"
Whatever else Syme had expected, he had never expected anything so
brutal and actual as this. Even his great presence of mind could only
manage a reply with an air of rather blundering jocularity.
"A policeman?" he said, laughing vaguely. "Whatever made you think of a
policeman in connection with me?"
"The process was simple enough," answered the Professor patiently. "I
thought you looked like a policeman. I think so now."
"Did I take a policeman's hat by mistake out of the restaurant?" asked
Syme, smiling wildly. "Have I by any chance got a number stuck on to
me somewhere? Have my boots got that watchful look? Why must I be a
policeman? Do, do let me be a postman."
The old Professor shook his head with a gravity that gave no hope, but
Syme ran on with a feverish irony.
"But perhaps I misunderstood the delicacies of your German philosophy.
Perhaps policeman is a relative term. In an evolutionary sense, sir,
the ape fades so gradually into the policeman, that I myself can never
detect the shade. The monkey is only the policeman that may be. Perhaps
a maiden lady on Clapham Common is only the policeman that might have
been. I don't mind being the policeman that might have been. I don't
mind being anything in German thought."
"Are you in the police service?" said the old man, ignoring all Syme's
improvised and desperate raillery. "Are you a detective?"
Syme's heart turned to stone, but his face never changed.
"Your suggestion is ridiculous," he began. "Why on earth--"
The old man struck his palsied hand passionately on the rickety table,
nearly breaking it.
"Did you hear me ask a plain question, you pattering spy?" he shrieked
in a high, crazy voice. "Are you, or are you not, a police detective?"
"No!" answered Syme, like a man standing on the hangman's drop.
"You swear it," said the old man, leaning across to him, his dead face
becoming as it were loathsomely alive. "You swear it! You swear it! If
you swear falsely, will you be damned? Will you be sure that the devil
dances at your funeral? Will you see that the nightmare sits on your
grave? Will there really be no mistake? You are an anarchist, you are a
dynamiter! Above all, you are not in any sense a detective? You are not
in the British police?"
He leant his angular elbow far across the table, and put up his large
loose hand like a flap to his ear.
"I am not in the British police," said Syme with insane calm.
Professor de Worms fell back in his chair with a curious air of kindly
"That's a pity," he said, "because I am."
Syme sprang up straight, sending back the bench behind him with a crash.
"Because you are what?" he said thickly. "You are what?"
"I am a policeman," said the Professor with his first broad smile,
and beaming through his spectacles. "But as you think policeman only
a relative term, of course I have nothing to do with you. I am in the
British police force; but as you tell me you are not in the British
police force, I can only say that I met you in a dynamiters' club. I
suppose I ought to arrest you." And with these words he laid on the
table before Syme an exact facsimile of the blue card which Syme had in
his own waistcoat pocket, the symbol of his power from the police.
Syme had for a flash the sensation that the cosmos had turned exactly
upside down, that all trees were growing downwards and that all stars
were under his feet. Then came slowly the opposite conviction. For the
last twenty-four hours the cosmos had really been upside down, but now
the capsized universe had come right side up again. This devil from whom
he had been fleeing all day was only an elder brother of his own house,
who on the other side of the table lay back and laughed at him. He did
not for the moment ask any questions of detail; he only knew the
happy and silly fact that this shadow, which had pursued him with an
intolerable oppression of peril, was only the shadow of a friend trying
to catch him up. He knew simultaneously that he was a fool and a free
man. For with any recovery from morbidity there must go a certain
healthy humiliation. There comes a certain point in such conditions when
only three things are possible: first a perpetuation of Satanic pride,
secondly tears, and third laughter. Syme's egotism held hard to the
first course for a few seconds, and then suddenly adopted the third.
Taking his own blue police ticket from his own waist coat pocket, he
tossed it on to the table; then he flung his head back until his spike
of yellow beard almost pointed at the ceiling, and shouted with a
Even in that close den, perpetually filled with the din of knives,
plates, cans, clamorous voices, sudden struggles and stampedes, there
was something Homeric in Syme's mirth which made many half-drunken men
"What yer laughing at, guv'nor?" asked one wondering labourer from the
"At myself," answered Syme, and went off again into the agony of his
"Pull yourself together," said the Professor, "or you'll get hysterical.
Have some more beer. I'll join you."
"You haven't drunk your milk," said Syme.
"My milk!" said the other, in tones of withering and unfathomable
contempt, "my milk! Do you think I'd look at the beastly stuff when
I'm out of sight of the bloody anarchists? We're all Christians in this
room, though perhaps," he added, glancing around at the reeling crowd,
"not strict ones. Finish my milk? Great blazes! yes, I'll finish it
right enough!" and he knocked the tumbler off the table, making a crash
of glass and a splash of silver fluid.
Syme was staring at him with a happy curiosity.
"I understand now," he cried; "of course, you're not an old man at all."
"I can't take my face off here," replied Professor de Worms. "It's
rather an elaborate make-up. As to whether I'm an old man, that's not
for me to say. I was thirty-eight last birthday."
"Yes, but I mean," said Syme impatiently, "there's nothing the matter
"Yes," answered the other dispassionately. "I am subject to colds."
Syme's laughter at all this had about it a wild weakness of relief.
He laughed at the idea of the paralytic Professor being really a young
actor dressed up as if for the foot-lights. But he felt that he would
have laughed as loudly if a pepperpot had fallen over.
The false Professor drank and wiped his false beard.
"Did you know," he asked, "that that man Gogol was one of us?"
"I? No, I didn't know it," answered Syme in some surprise. "But didn't
"I knew no more than the dead," replied the man who called himself de
Worms. "I thought the President was talking about me, and I rattled in
"And I thought he was talking about me," said Syme, with his rather
reckless laughter. "I had my hand on my revolver all the time."
"So had I," said the Professor grimly; "so had Gogol evidently."
Syme struck the table with an exclamation.
"Why, there were three of us there!" he cried. "Three out of seven is a
fighting number. If we had only known that we were three!"
The face of Professor de Worms darkened, and he did not look up.
"We were three," he said. "If we had been three hundred we could still
have done nothing."
"Not if we were three hundred against four?" asked Syme, jeering rather
"No," said the Professor with sobriety, "not if we were three hundred
And the mere name struck Syme cold and serious; his laughter had died in
his heart before it could die on his lips. The face of the unforgettable
President sprang into his mind as startling as a coloured photograph,
and he remarked this difference between Sunday and all his satellites,
that their faces, however fierce or sinister, became gradually blurred
by memory like other human faces, whereas Sunday's seemed almost to grow
more actual during absence, as if a man's painted portrait should slowly
They were both silent for a measure of moments, and then Syme's speech
came with a rush, like the sudden foaming of champagne.
"Professor," he cried, "it is intolerable. Are you afraid of this man?"
The Professor lifted his heavy lids, and gazed at Syme with large,
wide-open, blue eyes of an almost ethereal honesty.
"Yes, I am," he said mildly. "So are you."
Syme was dumb for an instant. Then he rose to his feet erect, like an
insulted man, and thrust the chair away from him.
"Yes," he said in a voice indescribable, "you are right. I am afraid of
him. Therefore I swear by God that I will seek out this man whom I fear
until I find him, and strike him on the mouth. If heaven were his throne
and the earth his footstool, I swear that I would pull him down."
"How?" asked the staring Professor. "Why?"
"Because I am afraid of him," said Syme; "and no man should leave in the
universe anything of which he is afraid."
De Worms blinked at him with a sort of blind wonder. He made an effort
to speak, but Syme went on in a low voice, but with an undercurrent of
"Who would condescend to strike down the mere things that he does not
fear? Who would debase himself to be merely brave, like any common
prizefighter? Who would stoop to be fearless--like a tree? Fight the
thing that you fear. You remember the old tale of the English clergyman
who gave the last rites to the brigand of Sicily, and how on his
death-bed the great robber said, 'I can give you no money, but I can
give you advice for a lifetime: your thumb on the blade, and strike
upwards.' So I say to you, strike upwards, if you strike at the stars."
The other looked at the ceiling, one of the tricks of his pose.
"Sunday is a fixed star," he said.
"You shall see him a falling star," said Syme, and put on his hat.
The decision of his gesture drew the Professor vaguely to his feet.
"Have you any idea," he asked, with a sort of benevolent bewilderment,
"exactly where you are going?"
"Yes," replied Syme shortly, "I am going to prevent this bomb being
thrown in Paris."
"Have you any conception how?" inquired the other.
"No," said Syme with equal decision.
"You remember, of course," resumed the soi-disant de Worms, pulling
his beard and looking out of the window, "that when we broke up rather
hurriedly the whole arrangements for the atrocity were left in the
private hands of the Marquis and Dr. Bull. The Marquis is by this time
probably crossing the Channel. But where he will go and what he will
do it is doubtful whether even the President knows; certainly we don't
know. The only man who does know is Dr. Bull."
"Confound it!" cried Syme. "And we don't know where he is."
"Yes," said the other in his curious, absent-minded way, "I know where
he is myself."
"Will you tell me?" asked Syme with eager eyes.
"I will take you there," said the Professor, and took down his own hat
from a peg.
Syme stood looking at him with a sort of rigid excitement.
"What do you mean?" he asked sharply. "Will you join me? Will you take
"Young man," said the Professor pleasantly, "I am amused to observe that
you think I am a coward. As to that I will say only one word, and that
shall be entirely in the manner of your own philosophical rhetoric. You
think that it is possible to pull down the President. I know that it
is impossible, and I am going to try it," and opening the tavern door,
which let in a blast of bitter air, they went out together into the dark
streets by the docks.
Most of the snow was melted or trampled to mud, but here and there a
clot of it still showed grey rather than white in the gloom. The small
streets were sloppy and full of pools, which reflected the flaming lamps
irregularly, and by accident, like fragments of some other and fallen
world. Syme felt almost dazed as he stepped through this growing
confusion of lights and shadows; but his companion walked on with a
certain briskness, towards where, at the end of the street, an inch or
two of the lamplit river looked like a bar of flame.
"Where are you going?" Syme inquired.
"Just now," answered the Professor, "I am going just round the corner
to see whether Dr. Bull has gone to bed. He is hygienic, and retires
"Dr. Bull!" exclaimed Syme. "Does he live round the corner?"
"No," answered his friend. "As a matter of fact he lives some way off,
on the other side of the river, but we can tell from here whether he has
gone to bed."
Turning the corner as he spoke, and facing the dim river, flecked with
flame, he pointed with his stick to the other bank. On the Surrey side
at this point there ran out into the Thames, seeming almost to overhang
it, a bulk and cluster of those tall tenements, dotted with lighted
windows, and rising like factory chimneys to an almost insane height.
Their special poise and position made one block of buildings especially
look like a Tower of Babel with a hundred eyes. Syme had never seen any
of the sky-scraping buildings in America, so he could only think of the
buildings in a dream.
Even as he stared, the highest light in this innumerably lighted turret
abruptly went out, as if this black Argus had winked at him with one of
his innumerable eyes.
Professor de Worms swung round on his heel, and struck his stick against
"We are too late," he said, "the hygienic Doctor has gone to bed."
"What do you mean?" asked Syme. "Does he live over there, then?"
"Yes," said de Worms, "behind that particular window which you can't
see. Come along and get some dinner. We must call on him tomorrow
Without further parley, he led the way through several by-ways until
they came out into the flare and clamour of the East India Dock Road.
The Professor, who seemed to know his way about the neighbourhood,
proceeded to a place where the line of lighted shops fell back into a
sort of abrupt twilight and quiet, in which an old white inn, all out of
repair, stood back some twenty feet from the road.
"You can find good English inns left by accident everywhere, like
fossils," explained the Professor. "I once found a decent place in the
"I suppose," said Syme, smiling, "that this is the corresponding decent
place in the East End?"
"It is," said the Professor reverently, and went in.
In that place they dined and slept, both very thoroughly. The beans and
bacon, which these unaccountable people cooked well, the astonishing
emergence of Burgundy from their cellars, crowned Syme's sense of a new
comradeship and comfort. Through all this ordeal his root horror had
been isolation, and there are no words to express the abyss between
isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematicians
that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand
times one. That is why, in spite of a hundred disadvantages, the world
will always return to monogamy.
Syme was able to pour out for the first time the whole of his outrageous
tale, from the time when Gregory had taken him to the little tavern by
the river. He did it idly and amply, in a luxuriant monologue, as a
man speaks with very old friends. On his side, also, the man who had
impersonated Professor de Worms was not less communicative. His own
story was almost as silly as Syme's.
"That's a good get-up of yours," said Syme, draining a glass of Macon;
"a lot better than old Gogol's. Even at the start I thought he was a bit
"A difference of artistic theory," replied the Professor pensively.
"Gogol was an idealist. He made up as the abstract or platonic ideal of
an anarchist. But I am a realist. I am a portrait painter. But, indeed,
to say that I am a portrait painter is an inadequate expression. I am a
"I don't understand you," said Syme.
"I am a portrait," repeated the Professor. "I am a portrait of the
celebrated Professor de Worms, who is, I believe, in Naples."
"You mean you are made up like him," said Syme. "But doesn't he know
that you are taking his nose in vain?"
"He knows it right enough," replied his friend cheerfully.
"Then why doesn't he denounce you?"
"I have denounced him," answered the Professor.
"Do explain yourself," said Syme.
"With pleasure, if you don't mind hearing my story," replied the eminent
foreign philosopher. "I am by profession an actor, and my name is
Wilks. When I was on the stage I mixed with all sorts of Bohemian and
blackguard company. Sometimes I touched the edge of the turf, sometimes
the riff-raff of the arts, and occasionally the political refugee.
In some den of exiled dreamers I was introduced to the great German
Nihilist philosopher, Professor de Worms. I did not gather much about
him beyond his appearance, which was very disgusting, and which I
studied carefully. I understood that he had proved that the destructive
principle in the universe was God; hence he insisted on the need for a
furious and incessant energy, rending all things in pieces. Energy, he
said, was the All. He was lame, shortsighted, and partially paralytic.
When I met him I was in a frivolous mood, and I disliked him so much
that I resolved to imitate him. If I had been a draughtsman I would have
drawn a caricature. I was only an actor, I could only act a caricature.
I made myself up into what was meant for a wild exaggeration of the
old Professor's dirty old self. When I went into the room full of his
supporters I expected to be received with a roar of laughter, or (if
they were too far gone) with a roar of indignation at the insult. I
cannot describe the surprise I felt when my entrance was received with
a respectful silence, followed (when I had first opened my lips) with
a murmur of admiration. The curse of the perfect artist had fallen upon
me. I had been too subtle, I had been too true. They thought I really
was the great Nihilist Professor. I was a healthy-minded young man
at the time, and I confess that it was a blow. Before I could fully
recover, however, two or three of these admirers ran up to me radiating
indignation, and told me that a public insult had been put upon me in
the next room. I inquired its nature. It seemed that an impertinent
fellow had dressed himself up as a preposterous parody of myself. I had
drunk more champagne than was good for me, and in a flash of folly I
decided to see the situation through. Consequently it was to meet the
glare of the company and my own lifted eyebrows and freezing eyes that
the real Professor came into the room.
"I need hardly say there was a collision. The pessimists all round me
looked anxiously from one Professor to the other Professor to see which
was really the more feeble. But I won. An old man in poor health, like
my rival, could not be expected to be so impressively feeble as a
young actor in the prime of life. You see, he really had paralysis,
and working within this definite limitation, he couldn't be so jolly
paralytic as I was. Then he tried to blast my claims intellectually. I
countered that by a very simple dodge. Whenever he said something that
nobody but he could understand, I replied with something which I could
not even understand myself. 'I don't fancy,' he said, 'that you could
have worked out the principle that evolution is only negation, since
there inheres in it the introduction of lacuna, which are an essential
of differentiation.' I replied quite scornfully, 'You read all that up
in Pinckwerts; the notion that involution functioned eugenically was
exposed long ago by Glumpe.' It is unnecessary for me to say that there
never were such people as Pinckwerts and Glumpe. But the people all
round (rather to my surprise) seemed to remember them quite well, and
the Professor, finding that the learned and mysterious method left him
rather at the mercy of an enemy slightly deficient in scruples, fell
back upon a more popular form of wit. 'I see,' he sneered, 'you prevail
like the false pig in Aesop.' 'And you fail,' I answered, smiling, 'like
the hedgehog in Montaigne.' Need I say that there is no hedgehog in
Montaigne? 'Your claptrap comes off,' he said; 'so would your beard.'
I had no intelligent answer to this, which was quite true and rather
witty. But I laughed heartily, answered, 'Like the Pantheist's boots,'
at random, and turned on my heel with all the honours of victory. The
real Professor was thrown out, but not with violence, though one
man tried very patiently to pull off his nose. He is now, I believe,
received everywhere in Europe as a delightful impostor. His apparent
earnestness and anger, you see, make him all the more entertaining."
"Well," said Syme, "I can understand your putting on his dirty old beard
for a night's practical joke, but I don't understand your never taking
it off again."
"That is the rest of the story," said the impersonator. "When I myself
left the company, followed by reverent applause, I went limping down the
dark street, hoping that I should soon be far enough away to be able
to walk like a human being. To my astonishment, as I was turning the
corner, I felt a touch on the shoulder, and turning, found myself under
the shadow of an enormous policeman. He told me I was wanted. I struck
a sort of paralytic attitude, and cried in a high German accent, 'Yes,
I am wanted--by the oppressed of the world. You are arresting me on the
charge of being the great anarchist, Professor de Worms.' The policeman
impassively consulted a paper in his hand, 'No, sir,' he said civilly,
'at least, not exactly, sir. I am arresting you on the charge of not
being the celebrated anarchist, Professor de Worms.' This charge, if it
was criminal at all, was certainly the lighter of the two, and I went
along with the man, doubtful, but not greatly dismayed. I was shown into
a number of rooms, and eventually into the presence of a police officer,
who explained that a serious campaign had been opened against the
centres of anarchy, and that this, my successful masquerade, might be of
considerable value to the public safety. He offered me a good salary and
this little blue card. Though our conversation was short, he struck me
as a man of very massive common sense and humour; but I cannot tell you
much about him personally, because--"
Syme laid down his knife and fork.
"I know," he said, "because you talked to him in a dark room."
Professor de Worms nodded and drained his glass.
CHAPTER IX. THE MAN IN SPECTACLES
"BURGUNDY is a jolly thing," said the Professor sadly, as he set his
"You don't look as if it were," said Syme; "you drink it as if it were
"You must excuse my manner," said the Professor dismally, "my position
is rather a curious one. Inside I am really bursting with boyish
merriment; but I acted the paralytic Professor so well, that now I can't
leave off. So that when I am among friends, and have no need at all
to disguise myself, I still can't help speaking slow and wrinkling my
forehead--just as if it were my forehead. I can be quite happy, you
understand, but only in a paralytic sort of way. The most buoyant
exclamations leap up in my heart, but they come out of my mouth quite
different. You should hear me say, 'Buck up, old cock!' It would bring
tears to your eyes."
"It does," said Syme; "but I cannot help thinking that apart from all
that you are really a bit worried."
The Professor started a little and looked at him steadily.
"You are a very clever fellow," he said, "it is a pleasure to work
with you. Yes, I have rather a heavy cloud in my head. There is a great
problem to face," and he sank his bald brow in his two hands.
Then he said in a low voice--
"Can you play the piano?"
"Yes," said Syme in simple wonder, "I'm supposed to have a good touch."
Then, as the other did not speak, he added--
"I trust the great cloud is lifted."
After a long silence, the Professor said out of the cavernous shadow of
"It would have done just as well if you could work a typewriter."
"Thank you," said Syme, "you flatter me."
"Listen to me," said the other, "and remember whom we have to see
tomorrow. You and I are going tomorrow to attempt something which is
very much more dangerous than trying to steal the Crown Jewels out
of the Tower. We are trying to steal a secret from a very sharp, very
strong, and very wicked man. I believe there is no man, except the
President, of course, who is so seriously startling and formidable as
that little grinning fellow in goggles. He has not perhaps the white-hot
enthusiasm unto death, the mad martyrdom for anarchy, which marks the
Secretary. But then that very fanaticism in the Secretary has a human
pathos, and is almost a redeeming trait. But the little Doctor has a
brutal sanity that is more shocking than the Secretary's disease. Don't
you notice his detestable virility and vitality. He bounces like an
india-rubber ball. Depend on it, Sunday was not asleep (I wonder if he
ever sleeps?) when he locked up all the plans of this outrage in the
round, black head of Dr. Bull."
"And you think," said Syme, "that this unique monster will be soothed if
I play the piano to him?"
"Don't be an ass," said his mentor. "I mentioned the piano because it
gives one quick and independent fingers. Syme, if we are to go through
this interview and come out sane or alive, we must have some code of
signals between us that this brute will not see. I have made a rough
alphabetical cypher corresponding to the five fingers--like this, see,"
and he rippled with his fingers on the wooden table--"B A D, bad, a word
we may frequently require."
Syme poured himself out another glass of wine, and began to study the
scheme. He was abnormally quick with his brains at puzzles, and with his
hands at conjuring, and it did not take him long to learn how he might
convey simple messages by what would seem to be idle taps upon a table
or knee. But wine and companionship had always the effect of inspiring
him to a farcical ingenuity, and the Professor soon found himself
struggling with the too vast energy of the new language, as it passed
through the heated brain of Syme.
"We must have several word-signs," said Syme seriously--"words that
we are likely to want, fine shades of meaning. My favourite word is
'coeval'. What's yours?"
"Do stop playing the goat," said the Professor plaintively. "You don't
know how serious this is."
"'Lush' too," said Syme, shaking his head sagaciously, "we must have
'lush'--word applied to grass, don't you know?"
"Do you imagine," asked the Professor furiously, "that we are going to
talk to Dr. Bull about grass?"
"There are several ways in which the subject could be approached," said
Syme reflectively, "and the word introduced without appearing forced.
We might say, 'Dr. Bull, as a revolutionist, you remember that a tyrant
once advised us to eat grass; and indeed many of us, looking on the
fresh lush grass of summer...'"
"Do you understand," said the other, "that this is a tragedy?"
"Perfectly," replied Syme; "always be comic in a tragedy. What the deuce
else can you do? I wish this language of yours had a wider scope. I
suppose we could not extend it from the fingers to the toes? That would
involve pulling off our boots and socks during the conversation, which
however unobtrusively performed--"
"Syme," said his friend with a stern simplicity, "go to bed!"
Syme, however, sat up in bed for a considerable time mastering the new
code. He was awakened next morning while the east was still sealed with
darkness, and found his grey-bearded ally standing like a ghost beside
Syme sat up in bed blinking; then slowly collected his thoughts, threw
off the bed-clothes, and stood up. It seemed to him in some curious way
that all the safety and sociability of the night before fell with the
bedclothes off him, and he stood up in an air of cold danger. He still
felt an entire trust and loyalty towards his companion; but it was the
trust between two men going to the scaffold.
"Well," said Syme with a forced cheerfulness as he pulled on his
trousers, "I dreamt of that alphabet of yours. Did it take you long to
make it up?"
The Professor made no answer, but gazed in front of him with eyes the
colour of a wintry sea; so Syme repeated his question.
"I say, did it take you long to invent all this? I'm considered good at
these things, and it was a good hour's grind. Did you learn it all on
The Professor was silent; his eyes were wide open, and he wore a fixed
but very small smile.
"How long did it take you?"
The Professor did not move.
"Confound you, can't you answer?" called out Syme, in a sudden anger
that had something like fear underneath. Whether or no the Professor
could answer, he did not.
Syme stood staring back at the stiff face like parchment and the blank,
blue eyes. His first thought was that the Professor had gone mad, but
his second thought was more frightful. After all, what did he know about
this queer creature whom he had heedlessly accepted as a friend? What
did he know, except that the man had been at the anarchist breakfast and
had told him a ridiculous tale? How improbable it was that there
should be another friend there beside Gogol! Was this man's silence a
sensational way of declaring war? Was this adamantine stare after all
only the awful sneer of some threefold traitor, who had turned for the
last time? He stood and strained his ears in this heartless silence.
He almost fancied he could hear dynamiters come to capture him shifting
softly in the corridor outside.
Then his eye strayed downwards, and he burst out laughing. Though the
Professor himself stood there as voiceless as a statue, his five
dumb fingers were dancing alive upon the dead table. Syme watched the
twinkling movements of the talking hand, and read clearly the message--
"I will only talk like this. We must get used to it."
He rapped out the answer with the impatience of relief--
"All right. Let's get out to breakfast."
They took their hats and sticks in silence; but as Syme took his
sword-stick, he held it hard.
They paused for a few minutes only to stuff down coffee and coarse thick
sandwiches at a coffee stall, and then made their way across the river,
which under the grey and growing light looked as desolate as Acheron.
They reached the bottom of the huge block of buildings which they had
seen from across the river, and began in silence to mount the naked and
numberless stone steps, only pausing now and then to make short remarks
on the rail of the banisters. At about every other flight they passed
a window; each window showed them a pale and tragic dawn lifting itself
laboriously over London. From each the innumerable roofs of slate looked
like the leaden surges of a grey, troubled sea after rain. Syme was
increasingly conscious that his new adventure had somehow a quality of
cold sanity worse than the wild adventures of the past. Last night, for
instance, the tall tenements had seemed to him like a tower in a dream.
As he now went up the weary and perpetual steps, he was daunted and
bewildered by their almost infinite series. But it was not the hot
horror of a dream or of anything that might be exaggeration or delusion.
Their infinity was more like the empty infinity of arithmetic, something
unthinkable, yet necessary to thought. Or it was like the stunning
statements of astronomy about the distance of the fixed stars. He
was ascending the house of reason, a thing more hideous than unreason
By the time they reached Dr. Bull's landing, a last window showed them
a harsh, white dawn edged with banks of a kind of coarse red, more like
red clay than red cloud. And when they entered Dr. Bull's bare garret it
was full of light.
Syme had been haunted by a half historic memory in connection with these
empty rooms and that austere daybreak. The moment he saw the garret
and Dr. Bull sitting writing at a table, he remembered what the memory
was--the French Revolution. There should have been the black outline of
a guillotine against that heavy red and white of the morning. Dr. Bull
was in his white shirt and black breeches only; his cropped, dark head
might well have just come out of its wig; he might have been Marat or a
more slipshod Robespierre.
Yet when he was seen properly, the French fancy fell away. The Jacobins
were idealists; there was about this man a murderous materialism. His
position gave him a somewhat new appearance. The strong, white light of
morning coming from one side creating sharp shadows, made him seem both
more pale and more angular than he had looked at the breakfast on the
balcony. Thus the two black glasses that encased his eyes might
really have been black cavities in his skull, making him look like a
death's-head. And, indeed, if ever Death himself sat writing at a wooden
table, it might have been he.
He looked up and smiled brightly enough as the men came in, and rose
with the resilient rapidity of which the Professor had spoken. He set
chairs for both of them, and going to a peg behind the door, proceeded
to put on a coat and waistcoat of rough, dark tweed; he buttoned it up
neatly, and came back to sit down at his table.
The quiet good humour of his manner left his two opponents helpless. It
was with some momentary difficulty that the Professor broke silence and
began, "I'm sorry to disturb you so early, comrade," said he, with a
careful resumption of the slow de Worms manner. "You have no doubt made
all the arrangements for the Paris affair?" Then he added with infinite
slowness, "We have information which renders intolerable anything in the
nature of a moment's delay."
Dr. Bull smiled again, but continued to gaze on them without speaking.
The Professor resumed, a pause before each weary word--
"Please do not think me excessively abrupt; but I advise you to alter
those plans, or if it is too late for that, to follow your agent with
all the support you can get for him. Comrade Syme and I have had an
experience which it would take more time to recount than we can afford,
if we are to act on it. I will, however, relate the occurrence in
detail, even at the risk of losing time, if you really feel that it is
essential to the understanding of the problem we have to discuss."
He was spinning out his sentences, making them intolerably long and
lingering, in the hope of maddening the practical little Doctor into an
explosion of impatience which might show his hand. But the little Doctor
continued only to stare and smile, and the monologue was uphill work.
Syme began to feel a new sickness and despair. The Doctor's smile and
silence were not at all like the cataleptic stare and horrible silence
which he had confronted in the Professor half an hour before. About the
Professor's makeup and all his antics there was always something merely
grotesque, like a gollywog. Syme remembered those wild woes of yesterday
as one remembers being afraid of Bogy in childhood. But here was
daylight; here was a healthy, square-shouldered man in tweeds, not odd
save for the accident of his ugly spectacles, not glaring or grinning at
all, but smiling steadily and not saying a word. The whole had a sense
of unbearable reality. Under the increasing sunlight the colours of
the Doctor's complexion, the pattern of his tweeds, grew and expanded
outrageously, as such things grow too important in a realistic novel.
But his smile was quite slight, the pose of his head polite; the only
uncanny thing was his silence.
"As I say," resumed the Professor, like a man toiling through heavy
sand, "the incident that has occurred to us and has led us to ask for
information about the Marquis, is one which you may think it better to
have narrated; but as it came in the way of Comrade Syme rather than
His words he seemed to be dragging out like words in an anthem; but
Syme, who was watching, saw his long fingers rattle quickly on the edge
of the crazy table. He read the message, "You must go on. This devil has
sucked me dry!"
Syme plunged into the breach with that bravado of improvisation which
always came to him when he was alarmed.
"Yes, the thing really happened to me," he said hastily. "I had the good
fortune to fall into conversation with a detective who took me, thanks
to my hat, for a respectable person. Wishing to clinch my reputation for
respectability, I took him and made him very drunk at the Savoy. Under
this influence he became friendly, and told me in so many words that
within a day or two they hope to arrest the Marquis in France.
"So unless you or I can get on his track--"
The Doctor was still smiling in the most friendly way, and his protected
eyes were still impenetrable. The Professor signalled to Syme that he
would resume his explanation, and he began again with the same elaborate
"Syme immediately brought this information to me, and we came here
together to see what use you would be inclined to make of it. It seems
to me unquestionably urgent that--"
All this time Syme had been staring at the Doctor almost as steadily
as the Doctor stared at the Professor, but quite without the smile. The
nerves of both comrades-in-arms were near snapping under that strain of
motionless amiability, when Syme suddenly leant forward and idly
tapped the edge of the table. His message to his ally ran, "I have an
The Professor, with scarcely a pause in his monologue, signalled back,
"Then sit on it."
Syme telegraphed, "It is quite extraordinary."
The other answered, "Extraordinary rot!"
Syme said, "I am a poet."
The other retorted, "You are a dead man."
Syme had gone quite red up to his yellow hair, and his eyes were burning
feverishly. As he said he had an intuition, and it had risen to a sort
of lightheaded certainty. Resuming his symbolic taps, he signalled to
his friend, "You scarcely realise how poetic my intuition is. It has
that sudden quality we sometimes feel in the coming of spring."
He then studied the answer on his friend's fingers. The answer was, "Go
The Professor then resumed his merely verbal monologue addressed to the
"Perhaps I should rather say," said Syme on his fingers, "that it
resembles that sudden smell of the sea which may be found in the heart
of lush woods."
His companion disdained to reply.
"Or yet again," tapped Syme, "it is positive, as is the passionate red
hair of a beautiful woman."
The Professor was continuing his speech, but in the middle of it Syme
decided to act. He leant across the table, and said in a voice that
could not be neglected--
The Doctor's sleek and smiling head did not move, but they could have
sworn that under his dark glasses his eyes darted towards Syme.
"Dr. Bull," said Syme, in a voice peculiarly precise and courteous,
"would you do me a small favour? Would you be so kind as to take off
The Professor swung round on his seat, and stared at Syme with a sort
of frozen fury of astonishment. Syme, like a man who has thrown his life
and fortune on the table, leaned forward with a fiery face. The Doctor
did not move.
For a few seconds there was a silence in which one could hear a pin
drop, split once by the single hoot of a distant steamer on the Thames.
Then Dr. Bull rose slowly, still smiling, and took off his spectacles.
Syme sprang to his feet, stepping backwards a little, like a chemical
lecturer from a successful explosion. His eyes were like stars, and for
an instant he could only point without speaking.
The Professor had also started to his feet, forgetful of his supposed
paralysis. He leant on the back of the chair and stared doubtfully at
Dr. Bull, as if the Doctor had been turned into a toad before his eyes.
And indeed it was almost as great a transformation scene.
The two detectives saw sitting in the chair before them a very
boyish-looking young man, with very frank and happy hazel eyes, an
open expression, cockney clothes like those of a city clerk, and
an unquestionable breath about him of being very good and rather
commonplace. The smile was still there, but it might have been the first
smile of a baby.
"I knew I was a poet," cried Syme in a sort of ecstasy. "I knew my
intuition was as infallible as the Pope. It was the spectacles that did
it! It was all the spectacles. Given those beastly black eyes, and all
the rest of him his health and his jolly looks, made him a live devil
among dead ones."
"It certainly does make a queer difference," said the Professor shakily.
"But as regards the project of Dr. Bull--"
"Project be damned!" roared Syme, beside himself. "Look at him! Look
at his face, look at his collar, look at his blessed boots! You don't
suppose, do you, that that thing's an anarchist?"
"Syme!" cried the other in an apprehensive agony.
"Why, by God," said Syme, "I'll take the risk of that myself! Dr. Bull,
I am a police officer. There's my card," and he flung down the blue card
upon the table.
The Professor still feared that all was lost; but he was loyal. He
pulled out his own official card and put it beside his friend's. Then
the third man burst out laughing, and for the first time that morning
they heard his voice.
"I'm awfully glad you chaps have come so early," he said, with a sort of
schoolboy flippancy, "for we can all start for France together. Yes,
I'm in the force right enough," and he flicked a blue card towards them
lightly as a matter of form.
Clapping a brisk bowler on his head and resuming his goblin glasses, the
Doctor moved so quickly towards the door, that the others instinctively
followed him. Syme seemed a little distrait, and as he passed under the
doorway he suddenly struck his stick on the stone passage so that it
"But Lord God Almighty," he cried out, "if this is all right, there were
more damned detectives than there were damned dynamiters at the damned
"We might have fought easily," said Bull; "we were four against three."
The Professor was descending the stairs, but his voice came up from
"No," said the voice, "we were not four against three--we were not so
lucky. We were four against One."
The others went down the stairs in silence.
The young man called Bull, with an innocent courtesy characteristic of
him, insisted on going last until they reached the street; but there his
own robust rapidity asserted itself unconsciously, and he walked quickly
on ahead towards a railway inquiry office, talking to the others over
"It is jolly to get some pals," he said. "I've been half dead with
the jumps, being quite alone. I nearly flung my arms round Gogol and
embraced him, which would have been imprudent. I hope you won't despise
me for having been in a blue funk."
"All the blue devils in blue hell," said Syme, "contributed to my blue
funk! But the worst devil was you and your infernal goggles."
The young man laughed delightedly.
"Wasn't it a rag?" he said. "Such a simple idea--not my own. I haven't
got the brains. You see, I wanted to go into the detective service,
especially the anti-dynamite business. But for that purpose they wanted
someone to dress up as a dynamiter; and they all swore by blazes that
I could never look like a dynamiter. They said my very walk was
respectable, and that seen from behind I looked like the British
Constitution. They said I looked too healthy and too optimistic, and too
reliable and benevolent; they called me all sorts of names at Scotland
Yard. They said that if I had been a criminal, I might have made my
fortune by looking so like an honest man; but as I had the misfortune to
be an honest man, there was not even the remotest chance of my assisting
them by ever looking like a criminal. But at last I was brought before
some old josser who was high up in the force, and who seemed to have
no end of a head on his shoulders. And there the others all talked
hopelessly. One asked whether a bushy beard would hide my nice smile;
another said that if they blacked my face I might look like a negro
anarchist; but this old chap chipped in with a most extraordinary
remark. 'A pair of smoked spectacles will do it,' he said positively.
'Look at him now; he looks like an angelic office boy. Put him on a pair
of smoked spectacles, and children will scream at the sight of him.'
And so it was, by George! When once my eyes were covered, all the rest,
smile and big shoulders and short hair, made me look a perfect little
devil. As I say, it was simple enough when it was done, like miracles;
but that wasn't the really miraculous part of it. There was one really
staggering thing about the business, and my head still turns at it."
"What was that?" asked Syme.
"I'll tell you," answered the man in spectacles. "This big pot in the
police who sized me up so that he knew how the goggles would go with my
hair and socks--by God, he never saw me at all!"
Syme's eyes suddenly flashed on him.
"How was that?" he asked. "I thought you talked to him."
"So I did," said Bull brightly; "but we talked in a pitch-dark room like
a coalcellar. There, you would never have guessed that."
"I could not have conceived it," said Syme gravely.
"It is indeed a new idea," said the Professor.
Their new ally was in practical matters a whirlwind. At the inquiry
office he asked with businesslike brevity about the trains for Dover.
Having got his information, he bundled the company into a cab, and put
them and himself inside a railway carriage before they had properly
realised the breathless process. They were already on the Calais boat
before conversation flowed freely.
"I had already arranged," he explained, "to go to France for my lunch;
but I am delighted to have someone to lunch with me. You see, I had to
send that beast, the Marquis, over with his bomb, because the President
had his eye on me, though God knows how. I'll tell you the story some
day. It was perfectly choking. Whenever I tried to slip out of it I saw
the President somewhere, smiling out of the bow-window of a club, or
taking off his hat to me from the top of an omnibus. I tell you, you can
say what you like, that fellow sold himself to the devil; he can be in
six places at once."
"So you sent the Marquis off, I understand," asked the Professor. "Was
it long ago? Shall we be in time to catch him?"
"Yes," answered the new guide, "I've timed it all. He'll still be at
Calais when we arrive."
"But when we do catch him at Calais," said the Professor, "what are we
going to do?"
At this question the countenance of Dr. Bull fell for the first time. He
reflected a little, and then said--
"Theoretically, I suppose, we ought to call the police."
"Not I," said Syme. "Theoretically I ought to drown myself first. I
promised a poor fellow, who was a real modern pessimist, on my word of
honour not to tell the police. I'm no hand at casuistry, but I can't
break my word to a modern pessimist. It's like breaking one's word to a
"I'm in the same boat," said the Professor. "I tried to tell the police
and I couldn't, because of some silly oath I took. You see, when I was
an actor I was a sort of all-round beast. Perjury or treason is the only
crime I haven't committed. If I did that I shouldn't know the difference
between right and wrong."
"I've been through all that," said Dr. Bull, "and I've made up my mind.
I gave my promise to the Secretary--you know him, man who smiles upside
down. My friends, that man is the most utterly unhappy man that was ever
human. It may be his digestion, or his conscience, or his nerves, or his
philosophy of the universe, but he's damned, he's in hell! Well, I can't
turn on a man like that, and hunt him down. It's like whipping a leper.
I may be mad, but that's how I feel; and there's jolly well the end of
"I don't think you're mad," said Syme. "I knew you would decide like
that when first you--"
"Eh?" said Dr. Bull.
"When first you took off your spectacles."
Dr. Bull smiled a little, and strolled across the deck to look at the
sunlit sea. Then he strolled back again, kicking his heels carelessly,
and a companionable silence fell between the three men.
"Well," said Syme, "it seems that we have all the same kind of morality
or immorality, so we had better face the fact that comes of it."
"Yes," assented the Professor, "you're quite right; and we must hurry
up, for I can see the Grey Nose standing out from France."
"The fact that comes of it," said Syme seriously, "is this, that we
three are alone on this planet. Gogol has gone, God knows where; perhaps
the President has smashed him like a fly. On the Council we are three
men against three, like the Romans who held the bridge. But we are worse
off than that, first because they can appeal to their organization and
we cannot appeal to ours, and second because--"
"Because one of those other three men," said the Professor, "is not a
Syme nodded and was silent for a second or two, then he said--
"My idea is this. We must do something to keep the Marquis in Calais
till tomorrow midday. I have turned over twenty schemes in my head. We
cannot denounce him as a dynamiter; that is agreed. We cannot get him
detained on some trivial charge, for we should have to appear; he knows
us, and he would smell a rat. We cannot pretend to keep him on anarchist
business; he might swallow much in that way, but not the notion of
stopping in Calais while the Czar went safely through Paris. We might
try to kidnap him, and lock him up ourselves; but he is a well-known man
here. He has a whole bodyguard of friends; he is very strong and brave,
and the event is doubtful. The only thing I can see to do is actually to
take advantage of the very things that are in the Marquis's favour. I am
going to profit by the fact that he is a highly respected nobleman. I
am going to profit by the fact that he has many friends and moves in the
"What the devil are you talking about?" asked the Professor.
"The Symes are first mentioned in the fourteenth century," said
Syme; "but there is a tradition that one of them rode behind Bruce at
Bannockburn. Since 1350 the tree is quite clear."
"He's gone off his head," said the little Doctor, staring.
"Our bearings," continued Syme calmly, "are 'argent a chevron gules
charged with three cross crosslets of the field.' The motto varies."
The Professor seized Syme roughly by the waistcoat.
"We are just inshore," he said. "Are you seasick or joking in the wrong
"My remarks are almost painfully practical," answered Syme, in an
unhurried manner. "The house of St. Eustache also is very ancient. The
Marquis cannot deny that he is a gentleman. He cannot deny that I am a
gentleman. And in order to put the matter of my social position quite
beyond a doubt, I propose at the earliest opportunity to knock his hat
off. But here we are in the harbour."
They went on shore under the strong sun in a sort of daze. Syme, who had
now taken the lead as Bull had taken it in London, led them along a kind
of marine parade until he came to some cafes, embowered in a bulk of
greenery and overlooking the sea. As he went before them his step was
slightly swaggering, and he swung his stick like a sword. He was making
apparently for the extreme end of the line of cafes, but he stopped
abruptly. With a sharp gesture he motioned them to silence, but he
pointed with one gloved finger to a cafe table under a bank of flowering
foliage at which sat the Marquis de St. Eustache, his teeth shining in
his thick, black beard, and his bold, brown face shadowed by a light
yellow straw hat and outlined against the violet sea.
CHAPTER X. THE DUEL
SYME sat down at a cafe table with his companions, his blue eyes
sparkling like the bright sea below, and ordered a bottle of Saumur with
a pleased impatience. He was for some reason in a condition of curious
hilarity. His spirits were already unnaturally high; they rose as the
Saumur sank, and in half an hour his talk was a torrent of nonsense. He
professed to be making out a plan of the conversation which was going to
ensue between himself and the deadly Marquis. He jotted it down wildly
with a pencil. It was arranged like a printed catechism, with questions
and answers, and was delivered with an extraordinary rapidity of
"I shall approach. Before taking off his hat, I shall take off my own. I
shall say, 'The Marquis de Saint Eustache, I believe.' He will say,
'The celebrated Mr. Syme, I presume.' He will say in the most exquisite
French, 'How are you?' I shall reply in the most exquisite Cockney, 'Oh,
just the Syme--'"
"Oh, shut it," said the man in spectacles. "Pull yourself together, and
chuck away that bit of paper. What are you really going to do?"
"But it was a lovely catechism," said Syme pathetically. "Do let me read
it you. It has only forty-three questions and answers, and some of the
Marquis's answers are wonderfully witty. I like to be just to my enemy."
"But what's the good of it all?" asked Dr. Bull in exasperation.
"It leads up to my challenge, don't you see," said Syme, beaming. "When
the Marquis has given the thirty-ninth reply, which runs--"
"Has it by any chance occurred to you," asked the Professor, with a
ponderous simplicity, "that the Marquis may not say all the forty-three
things you have put down for him? In that case, I understand, your own
epigrams may appear somewhat more forced."
Syme struck the table with a radiant face.
"Why, how true that is," he said, "and I never thought of it. Sir, you
have an intellect beyond the common. You will make a name."
"Oh, you're as drunk as an owl!" said the Doctor.
"It only remains," continued Syme quite unperturbed, "to adopt some
other method of breaking the ice (if I may so express it) between myself
and the man I wish to kill. And since the course of a dialogue cannot be
predicted by one of its parties alone (as you have pointed out with such
recondite acumen), the only thing to be done, I suppose, is for the one
party, as far as possible, to do all the dialogue by himself. And so I
will, by George!" And he stood up suddenly, his yellow hair blowing in
the slight sea breeze.
A band was playing in a cafe chantant hidden somewhere among the trees,
and a woman had just stopped singing. On Syme's heated head the bray of
the brass band seemed like the jar and jingle of that barrel-organ in
Leicester Square, to the tune of which he had once stood up to die. He
looked across to the little table where the Marquis sat. The man had two
companions now, solemn Frenchmen in frock-coats and silk hats, one of
them with the red rosette of the Legion of Honour, evidently people of
a solid social position. Besides these black, cylindrical costumes,
the Marquis, in his loose straw hat and light spring clothes, looked
Bohemian and even barbaric; but he looked the Marquis. Indeed, one might
say that he looked the king, with his animal elegance, his scornful
eyes, and his proud head lifted against the purple sea. But he was no
Christian king, at any rate; he was, rather, some swarthy despot, half
Greek, half Asiatic, who in the days when slavery seemed natural looked
down on the Mediterranean, on his galley and his groaning slaves. Just
so, Syme thought, would the brown-gold face of such a tyrant have shown
against the dark green olives and the burning blue.
"Are you going to address the meeting?" asked the Professor peevishly,
seeing that Syme still stood up without moving.
Syme drained his last glass of sparkling wine.
"I am," he said, pointing across to the Marquis and his companions,
"that meeting. That meeting displeases me. I am going to pull that
meeting's great ugly, mahogany-coloured nose."
He stepped across swiftly, if not quite steadily. The Marquis, seeing
him, arched his black Assyrian eyebrows in surprise, but smiled
"You are Mr. Syme, I think," he said.
"And you are the Marquis de Saint Eustache," he said gracefully. "Permit
me to pull your nose."
He leant over to do so, but the Marquis started backwards, upsetting his
chair, and the two men in top hats held Syme back by the shoulders.
"This man has insulted me!" said Syme, with gestures of explanation.
"Insulted you?" cried the gentleman with the red rosette, "when?"
"Oh, just now," said Syme recklessly. "He insulted my mother."
"Insulted your mother!" exclaimed the gentleman incredulously.
"Well, anyhow," said Syme, conceding a point, "my aunt."
"But how can the Marquis have insulted your aunt just now?" said the
second gentleman with some legitimate wonder. "He has been sitting here
all the time."
"Ah, it was what he said!" said Syme darkly.
"I said nothing at all," said the Marquis, "except something about the
band. I only said that I liked Wagner played well."
"It was an allusion to my family," said Syme firmly. "My aunt played
Wagner badly. It was a painful subject. We are always being insulted
"This seems most extraordinary," said the gentleman who was decore,
looking doubtfully at the Marquis.
"Oh, I assure you," said Syme earnestly, "the whole of your conversation
was simply packed with sinister allusions to my aunt's weaknesses."
"This is nonsense!" said the second gentleman. "I for one have said
nothing for half an hour except that I liked the singing of that girl
with black hair."
"Well, there you are again!" said Syme indignantly. "My aunt's was red."
"It seems to me," said the other, "that you are simply seeking a pretext
to insult the Marquis."
"By George!" said Syme, facing round and looking at him, "what a clever
chap you are!"
The Marquis started up with eyes flaming like a tiger's.
"Seeking a quarrel with me!" he cried. "Seeking a fight with me! By God!
there was never a man who had to seek long. These gentlemen will perhaps
act for me. There are still four hours of daylight. Let us fight this
Syme bowed with a quite beautiful graciousness.
"Marquis," he said, "your action is worthy of your fame and blood.
Permit me to consult for a moment with the gentlemen in whose hands I
shall place myself."
In three long strides he rejoined his companions, and they, who had seen
his champagne-inspired attack and listened to his idiotic explanations,
were quite startled at the look of him. For now that he came back to
them he was quite sober, a little pale, and he spoke in a low voice of
"I have done it," he said hoarsely. "I have fixed a fight on the beast.
But look here, and listen carefully. There is no time for talk. You are
my seconds, and everything must come from you. Now you must insist, and
insist absolutely, on the duel coming off after seven tomorrow, so as to
give me the chance of preventing him from catching the 7.45 for Paris.
If he misses that he misses his crime. He can't refuse to meet you on
such a small point of time and place. But this is what he will do. He
will choose a field somewhere near a wayside station, where he can pick
up the train. He is a very good swordsman, and he will trust to killing
me in time to catch it. But I can fence well too, and I think I can keep
him in play, at any rate, until the train is lost. Then perhaps he may
kill me to console his feelings. You understand? Very well then, let
me introduce you to some charming friends of mine," and leading them
quickly across the parade, he presented them to the Marquis's seconds by
two very aristocratic names of which they had not previously heard.
Syme was subject to spasms of singular common sense, not otherwise a
part of his character. They were (as he said of his impulse about the
spectacles) poetic intuitions, and they sometimes rose to the exaltation
He had correctly calculated in this case the policy of his opponent.
When the Marquis was informed by his seconds that Syme could only
fight in the morning, he must fully have realised that an obstacle
had suddenly arisen between him and his bomb-throwing business in the
capital. Naturally he could not explain this objection to his friends,
so he chose the course which Syme had predicted. He induced his seconds
to settle on a small meadow not far from the railway, and he trusted to
the fatality of the first engagement.
When he came down very coolly to the field of honour, no one could have
guessed that he had any anxiety about a journey; his hands were in his
pockets, his straw hat on the back of his head, his handsome face
brazen in the sun. But it might have struck a stranger as odd that there
appeared in his train, not only his seconds carrying the sword-case, but
two of his servants carrying a portmanteau and a luncheon basket.
Early as was the hour, the sun soaked everything in warmth, and Syme was
vaguely surprised to see so many spring flowers burning gold and silver
in the tall grass in which the whole company stood almost knee-deep.
With the exception of the Marquis, all the men were in sombre and solemn
morning-dress, with hats like black chimney-pots; the little Doctor
especially, with the addition of his black spectacles, looked like an
undertaker in a farce. Syme could not help feeling a comic contrast
between this funereal church parade of apparel and the rich and
glistening meadow, growing wild flowers everywhere. But, indeed, this
comic contrast between the yellow blossoms and the black hats was but a
symbol of the tragic contrast between the yellow blossoms and the black
business. On his right was a little wood; far away to his left lay the
long curve of the railway line, which he was, so to speak, guarding from
the Marquis, whose goal and escape it was. In front of him, behind the
black group of his opponents, he could see, like a tinted cloud, a small
almond bush in flower against the faint line of the sea.
The member of the Legion of Honour, whose name it seemed was Colonel
Ducroix, approached the Professor and Dr. Bull with great politeness,
and suggested that the play should terminate with the first considerable
Dr. Bull, however, having been carefully coached by Syme upon this point
of policy, insisted, with great dignity and in very bad French, that it
should continue until one of the combatants was disabled. Syme had made
up his mind that he could avoid disabling the Marquis and prevent
the Marquis from disabling him for at least twenty minutes. In twenty
minutes the Paris train would have gone by.
"To a man of the well-known skill and valour of Monsieur de St.
Eustache," said the Professor solemnly, "it must be a matter of
indifference which method is adopted, and our principal has strong
reasons for demanding the longer encounter, reasons the delicacy of
which prevent me from being explicit, but for the just and honourable
nature of which I can--"
"Peste!" broke from the Marquis behind, whose face had suddenly
darkened, "let us stop talking and begin," and he slashed off the head
of a tall flower with his stick.
Syme understood his rude impatience and instinctively looked over his
shoulder to see whether the train was coming in sight. But there was no
smoke on the horizon.
Colonel Ducroix knelt down and unlocked the case, taking out a pair of
twin swords, which took the sunlight and turned to two streaks of white
fire. He offered one to the Marquis, who snatched it without ceremony,
and another to Syme, who took it, bent it, and poised it with as much
delay as was consistent with dignity.
Then the Colonel took out another pair of blades, and taking one himself
and giving another to Dr. Bull, proceeded to place the men.
Both combatants had thrown off their coats and waistcoats, and stood
sword in hand. The seconds stood on each side of the line of fight with
drawn swords also, but still sombre in their dark frock-coats and hats.
The principals saluted. The Colonel said quietly, "Engage!" and the two
blades touched and tingled.
When the jar of the joined iron ran up Syme's arm, all the fantastic
fears that have been the subject of this story fell from him like dreams
from a man waking up in bed. He remembered them clearly and in order as
mere delusions of the nerves--how the fear of the Professor had been
the fear of the tyrannic accidents of nightmare, and how the fear of the
Doctor had been the fear of the airless vacuum of science. The first was
the old fear that any miracle might happen, the second the more hopeless
modern fear that no miracle can ever happen. But he saw that these fears
were fancies, for he found himself in the presence of the great fact of
the fear of death, with its coarse and pitiless common sense. He felt
like a man who had dreamed all night of falling over precipices, and had
woke up on the morning when he was to be hanged. For as soon as he had
seen the sunlight run down the channel of his foe's foreshortened blade,
and as soon as he had felt the two tongues of steel touch, vibrating
like two living things, he knew that his enemy was a terrible fighter,
and that probably his last hour had come.
He felt a strange and vivid value in all the earth around him, in the
grass under his feet; he felt the love of life in all living things.
He could almost fancy that he heard the grass growing; he could almost
fancy that even as he stood fresh flowers were springing up and breaking
into blossom in the meadow--flowers blood red and burning gold and
blue, fulfilling the whole pageant of the spring. And whenever his
eyes strayed for a flash from the calm, staring, hypnotic eyes of the
Marquis, they saw the little tuft of almond tree against the sky-line.
He had the feeling that if by some miracle he escaped he would be ready
to sit for ever before that almond tree, desiring nothing else in the
But while earth and sky and everything had the living beauty of a thing
lost, the other half of his head was as clear as glass, and he was
parrying his enemy's point with a kind of clockwork skill of which he
had hardly supposed himself capable. Once his enemy's point ran along
his wrist, leaving a slight streak of blood, but it either was not
noticed or was tacitly ignored. Every now and then he riposted, and once
or twice he could almost fancy that he felt his point go home, but as
there was no blood on blade or shirt he supposed he was mistaken. Then
came an interruption and a change.
At the risk of losing all, the Marquis, interrupting his quiet stare,
flashed one glance over his shoulder at the line of railway on his
right. Then he turned on Syme a face transfigured to that of a fiend,
and began to fight as if with twenty weapons. The attack came so fast
and furious, that the one shining sword seemed a shower of shining
arrows. Syme had no chance to look at the railway; but also he had
no need. He could guess the reason of the Marquis's sudden madness of
battle--the Paris train was in sight.
But the Marquis's morbid energy over-reached itself. Twice Syme,
parrying, knocked his opponent's point far out of the fighting circle;
and the third time his riposte was so rapid, that there was no doubt
about the hit this time. Syme's sword actually bent under the weight of
the Marquis's body, which it had pierced.
Syme was as certain that he had stuck his blade into his enemy as a
gardener that he has stuck his spade into the ground. Yet the Marquis
sprang back from the stroke without a stagger, and Syme stood staring at
his own sword-point like an idiot. There was no blood on it at all.
There was an instant of rigid silence, and then Syme in his turn fell
furiously on the other, filled with a flaming curiosity. The Marquis
was probably, in a general sense, a better fencer than he, as he
had surmised at the beginning, but at the moment the Marquis seemed
distraught and at a disadvantage. He fought wildly and even weakly, and
he constantly looked away at the railway line, almost as if he feared
the train more than the pointed steel. Syme, on the other hand, fought
fiercely but still carefully, in an intellectual fury, eager to solve
the riddle of his own bloodless sword. For this purpose, he aimed less
at the Marquis's body, and more at his throat and head. A minute and a
half afterwards he felt his point enter the man's neck below the jaw.
It came out clean. Half mad, he thrust again, and made what should have
been a bloody scar on the Marquis's cheek. But there was no scar.
For one moment the heaven of Syme again grew black with supernatural
terrors. Surely the man had a charmed life. But this new spiritual dread
was a more awful thing than had been the mere spiritual topsy-turvydom
symbolised by the paralytic who pursued him. The Professor was only a
goblin; this man was a devil--perhaps he was the Devil! Anyhow, this
was certain, that three times had a human sword been driven into him
and made no mark. When Syme had that thought he drew himself up, and all
that was good in him sang high up in the air as a high wind sings in the
trees. He thought of all the human things in his story--of the Chinese
lanterns in Saffron Park, of the girl's red hair in the garden, of the
honest, beer-swilling sailors down by the dock, of his loyal companions
standing by. Perhaps he had been chosen as a champion of all these fresh
and kindly things to cross swords with the enemy of all creation. "After
all," he said to himself, "I am more than a devil; I am a man. I can do
the one thing which Satan himself cannot do--I can die," and as the word
went through his head, he heard a faint and far-off hoot, which would
soon be the roar of the Paris train.
He fell to fighting again with a supernatural levity, like a Mohammedan
panting for Paradise. As the train came nearer and nearer he fancied he
could see people putting up the floral arches in Paris; he joined in
the growing noise and the glory of the great Republic whose gate he
was guarding against Hell. His thoughts rose higher and higher with
the rising roar of the train, which ended, as if proudly, in a long and
piercing whistle. The train stopped.
Suddenly, to the astonishment of everyone the Marquis sprang back quite
out of sword reach and threw down his sword. The leap was wonderful,
and not the less wonderful because Syme had plunged his sword a moment
before into the man's thigh.
"Stop!" said the Marquis in a voice that compelled a momentary
obedience. "I want to say something."
"What is the matter?" asked Colonel Ducroix, staring. "Has there been
"There has been foul play somewhere," said Dr. Bull, who was a little
pale. "Our principal has wounded the Marquis four times at least, and he
is none the worse."
The Marquis put up his hand with a curious air of ghastly patience.
"Please let me speak," he said. "It is rather important. Mr. Syme,"
he continued, turning to his opponent, "we are fighting today, if
I remember right, because you expressed a wish (which I thought
irrational) to pull my nose. Would you oblige me by pulling my nose now
as quickly as possible? I have to catch a train."
"I protest that this is most irregular," said Dr. Bull indignantly.
"It is certainly somewhat opposed to precedent," said Colonel Ducroix,
looking wistfully at his principal. "There is, I think, one case on
record (Captain Bellegarde and the Baron Zumpt) in which the weapons
were changed in the middle of the encounter at the request of one of the
combatants. But one can hardly call one's nose a weapon."
"Will you or will you not pull my nose?" said the Marquis in
exasperation. "Come, come, Mr. Syme! You wanted to do it, do it! You can
have no conception of how important it is to me. Don't be so selfish!
Pull my nose at once, when I ask you!" and he bent slightly forward with
a fascinating smile. The Paris train, panting and groaning, had grated
into a little station behind the neighbouring hill.
Syme had the feeling he had more than once had in these adventures--the
sense that a horrible and sublime wave lifted to heaven was just
toppling over. Walking in a world he half understood, he took two paces
forward and seized the Roman nose of this remarkable nobleman. He pulled
it hard, and it came off in his hand.
He stood for some seconds with a foolish solemnity, with the pasteboard
proboscis still between his fingers, looking at it, while the sun and
the clouds and the wooded hills looked down upon this imbecile scene.
The Marquis broke the silence in a loud and cheerful voice.
"If anyone has any use for my left eyebrow," he said, "he can have it.
Colonel Ducroix, do accept my left eyebrow! It's the kind of thing
that might come in useful any day," and he gravely tore off one of his
swarthy Assyrian brows, bringing about half his brown forehead with it,
and politely offered it to the Colonel, who stood crimson and speechless
"If I had known," he spluttered, "that I was acting for a poltroon who
pads himself to fight--"
"Oh, I know, I know!" said the Marquis, recklessly throwing various
parts of himself right and left about the field. "You are making a
mistake; but it can't be explained just now. I tell you the train has
come into the station!"
"Yes," said Dr. Bull fiercely, "and the train shall go out of the
station. It shall go out without you. We know well enough for what
The mysterious Marquis lifted his hands with a desperate gesture. He
was a strange scarecrow standing there in the sun with half his old face
peeled off, and half another face glaring and grinning from underneath.
"Will you drive me mad?" he cried. "The train--"
"You shall not go by the train," said Syme firmly, and grasped his
The wild figure turned towards Syme, and seemed to be gathering itself
for a sublime effort before speaking.
"You great fat, blasted, blear-eyed, blundering, thundering, brainless,
Godforsaken, doddering, damned fool!" he said without taking breath.
"You great silly, pink-faced, towheaded turnip! You--"
"You shall not go by this train," repeated Syme.
"And why the infernal blazes," roared the other, "should I want to go by
"We know all," said the Professor sternly. "You are going to Paris to
throw a bomb!"
"Going to Jericho to throw a Jabberwock!" cried the other, tearing his
hair, which came off easily.
"Have you all got softening of the brain, that you don't realise what
I am? Did you really think I wanted to catch that train? Twenty Paris
trains might go by for me. Damn Paris trains!"
"Then what did you care about?" began the Professor.
"What did I care about? I didn't care about catching the train; I cared
about whether the train caught me, and now, by God! it has caught me."
"I regret to inform you," said Syme with restraint, "that your remarks
convey no impression to my mind. Perhaps if you were to remove the
remains of your original forehead and some portion of what was once your
chin, your meaning would become clearer. Mental lucidity fulfils itself
in many ways. What do you mean by saying that the train has caught you?
It may be my literary fancy, but somehow I feel that it ought to mean
"It means everything," said the other, "and the end of everything.
Sunday has us now in the hollow of his hand."
"Us!" repeated the Professor, as if stupefied. "What do you mean by
"The police, of course!" said the Marquis, and tore off his scalp and
half his face.
The head which emerged was the blonde, well brushed, smooth-haired head
which is common in the English constabulary, but the face was terribly
"I am Inspector Ratcliffe," he said, with a sort of haste that verged
on harshness. "My name is pretty well known to the police, and I can see
well enough that you belong to them. But if there is any doubt about
my position, I have a card," and he began to pull a blue card from his
The Professor gave a tired gesture.
"Oh, don't show it us," he said wearily; "we've got enough of them to
equip a paper-chase."
The little man named Bull, had, like many men who seem to be of a mere
vivacious vulgarity, sudden movements of good taste. Here he certainly
saved the situation. In the midst of this staggering transformation
scene he stepped forward with all the gravity and responsibility of a
second, and addressed the two seconds of the Marquis.
"Gentlemen," he said, "we all owe you a serious apology; but I assure
you that you have not been made the victims of such a low joke as you
imagine, or indeed of anything undignified in a man of honour. You have
not wasted your time; you have helped to save the world. We are not
buffoons, but very desperate men at war with a vast conspiracy. A secret
society of anarchists is hunting us like hares; not such unfortunate
madmen as may here or there throw a bomb through starvation or German
philosophy, but a rich and powerful and fanatical church, a church of
eastern pessimism, which holds it holy to destroy mankind like vermin.
How hard they hunt us you can gather from the fact that we are driven
to such disguises as those for which I apologise, and to such pranks as
this one by which you suffer."
The younger second of the Marquis, a short man with a black moustache,
bowed politely, and said--
"Of course, I accept the apology; but you will in your turn forgive me
if I decline to follow you further into your difficulties, and
permit myself to say good morning! The sight of an acquaintance and
distinguished fellow-townsman coming to pieces in the open air is
unusual, and, upon the whole, sufficient for one day. Colonel Ducroix, I
would in no way influence your actions, but if you feel with me that our
present society is a little abnormal, I am now going to walk back to the
Colonel Ducroix moved mechanically, but then tugged abruptly at his
white moustache and broke out--
"No, by George! I won't. If these gentlemen are really in a mess with a
lot of low wreckers like that, I'll see them through it. I have fought
for France, and it is hard if I can't fight for civilization."
Dr. Bull took off his hat and waved it, cheering as at a public meeting.
"Don't make too much noise," said Inspector Ratcliffe, "Sunday may hear
"Sunday!" cried Bull, and dropped his hat.
"Yes," retorted Ratcliffe, "he may be with them."
"With whom?" asked Syme.
"With the people out of that train," said the other.
"What you say seems utterly wild," began Syme. "Why, as a matter of
fact--But, my God," he cried out suddenly, like a man who sees an
explosion a long way off, "by God! if this is true the whole bally lot
of us on the Anarchist Council were against anarchy! Every born man was
a detective except the President and his personal secretary. What can it
"Mean!" said the new policeman with incredible violence. "It means that
we are struck dead! Don't you know Sunday? Don't you know that his jokes
are always so big and simple that one has never thought of them? Can you
think of anything more like Sunday than this, that he should put all his
powerful enemies on the Supreme Council, and then take care that it was
not supreme? I tell you he has bought every trust, he has captured every
cable, he has control of every railway line--especially of that railway
line!" and he pointed a shaking finger towards the small wayside
station. "The whole movement was controlled by him; half the world was
ready to rise for him. But there were just five people, perhaps, who
would have resisted him... and the old devil put them on the Supreme
Council, to waste their time in watching each other. Idiots that we are,
he planned the whole of our idiocies! Sunday knew that the Professor
would chase Syme through London, and that Syme would fight me in France.
And he was combining great masses of capital, and seizing great lines
of telegraphy, while we five idiots were running after each other like a
lot of confounded babies playing blind man's buff."
"Well?" asked Syme with a sort of steadiness.
"Well," replied the other with sudden serenity, "he has found us playing
blind man's buff today in a field of great rustic beauty and extreme
solitude. He has probably captured the world; it only remains to him to
capture this field and all the fools in it. And since you really want
to know what was my objection to the arrival of that train, I will tell
you. My objection was that Sunday or his Secretary has just this moment
got out of it."
Syme uttered an involuntary cry, and they all turned their eyes towards
the far-off station. It was quite true that a considerable bulk of
people seemed to be moving in their direction. But they were too distant
to be distinguished in any way.
"It was a habit of the late Marquis de St. Eustache," said the new
policeman, producing a leather case, "always to carry a pair of opera
glasses. Either the President or the Secretary is coming after us with
that mob. They have caught us in a nice quiet place where we are under
no temptations to break our oaths by calling the police. Dr. Bull, I
have a suspicion that you will see better through these than through
your own highly decorative spectacles."
He handed the field-glasses to the Doctor, who immediately took off his
spectacles and put the apparatus to his eyes.
"It cannot be as bad as you say," said the Professor, somewhat shaken.
"There are a good number of them certainly, but they may easily be
"Do ordinary tourists," asked Bull, with the fieldglasses to his eyes,
"wear black masks half-way down the face?"
Syme almost tore the glasses out of his hand, and looked through them.
Most men in the advancing mob really looked ordinary enough; but it
was quite true that two or three of the leaders in front wore black
half-masks almost down to their mouths. This disguise is very complete,
especially at such a distance, and Syme found it impossible to conclude
anything from the clean-shaven jaws and chins of the men talking in
the front. But presently as they talked they all smiled and one of them
smiled on one side.
CHAPTER XI. THE CRIMINALS CHASE THE POLICE
SYME put the field-glasses from his eyes with an almost ghastly relief.
"The President is not with them, anyhow," he said, and wiped his
"But surely they are right away on the horizon," said the bewildered
Colonel, blinking and but half recovered from Bull's hasty though polite
explanation. "Could you possibly know your President among all those
"Could I know a white elephant among all those people!" answered Syme
somewhat irritably. "As you very truly say, they are on the horizon;
but if he were walking with them... by God! I believe this ground would
After an instant's pause the new man called Ratcliffe said with gloomy
"Of course the President isn't with them. I wish to Gemini he were. Much
more likely the President is riding in triumph through Paris, or sitting
on the ruins of St. Paul's Cathedral."
"This is absurd!" said Syme. "Something may have happened in our
absence; but he cannot have carried the world with a rush like that. It
is quite true," he added, frowning dubiously at the distant fields that
lay towards the little station, "it is certainly true that there seems
to be a crowd coming this way; but they are not all the army that you
"Oh, they," said the new detective contemptuously; "no they are not a
very valuable force. But let me tell you frankly that they are precisely
calculated to our value--we are not much, my boy, in Sunday's universe.
He has got hold of all the cables and telegraphs himself. But to kill
the Supreme Council he regards as a trivial matter, like a post card; it
may be left to his private secretary," and he spat on the grass.
Then he turned to the others and said somewhat austerely--
"There is a great deal to be said for death; but if anyone has any
preference for the other alternative, I strongly advise him to walk
With these words, he turned his broad back and strode with silent energy
towards the wood. The others gave one glance over their shoulders, and
saw that the dark cloud of men had detached itself from the station
and was moving with a mysterious discipline across the plain. They saw
already, even with the naked eye, black blots on the foremost faces,
which marked the masks they wore. They turned and followed their leader,
who had already struck the wood, and disappeared among the twinkling
The sun on the grass was dry and hot. So in plunging into the wood they
had a cool shock of shadow, as of divers who plunge into a dim pool. The
inside of the wood was full of shattered sunlight and shaken shadows.
They made a sort of shuddering veil, almost recalling the dizziness of a
cinematograph. Even the solid figures walking with him Syme could hardly
see for the patterns of sun and shade that danced upon them. Now a man's
head was lit as with a light of Rembrandt, leaving all else obliterated;
now again he had strong and staring white hands with the face of a
negro. The ex-Marquis had pulled the old straw hat over his eyes, and
the black shade of the brim cut his face so squarely in two that it
seemed to be wearing one of the black half-masks of their pursuers. The
fancy tinted Syme's overwhelming sense of wonder. Was he wearing a mask?
Was anyone wearing a mask? Was anyone anything? This wood of witchery,
in which men's faces turned black and white by turns, in which their
figures first swelled into sunlight and then faded into formless night,
this mere chaos of chiaroscuro (after the clear daylight outside),
seemed to Syme a perfect symbol of the world in which he had been moving
for three days, this world where men took off their beards and their
spectacles and their noses, and turned into other people. That tragic
self-confidence which he had felt when he believed that the Marquis was
a devil had strangely disappeared now that he knew that the Marquis was
a friend. He felt almost inclined to ask after all these bewilderments
what was a friend and what an enemy. Was there anything that was apart
from what it seemed? The Marquis had taken off his nose and turned out
to be a detective. Might he not just as well take off his head and
turn out to be a hobgoblin? Was not everything, after all, like this
bewildering woodland, this dance of dark and light? Everything only
a glimpse, the glimpse always unforeseen, and always forgotten. For
Gabriel Syme had found in the heart of that sun-splashed wood what many
modern painters had found there. He had found the thing which the
modern people call Impressionism, which is another name for that final
scepticism which can find no floor to the universe.
As a man in an evil dream strains himself to scream and wake, Syme
strove with a sudden effort to fling off this last and worst of his
fancies. With two impatient strides he overtook the man in the Marquis's
straw hat, the man whom he had come to address as Ratcliffe. In a voice
exaggeratively loud and cheerful, he broke the bottomless silence and
"May I ask," he said, "where on earth we are all going to?"
So genuine had been the doubts of his soul, that he was quite glad to
hear his companion speak in an easy, human voice.
"We must get down through the town of Lancy to the sea," he said. "I
think that part of the country is least likely to be with them."
"What can you mean by all this?" cried Syme. "They can't be running the
real world in that way. Surely not many working men are anarchists, and
surely if they were, mere mobs could not beat modern armies and police."
"Mere mobs!" repeated his new friend with a snort of scorn. "So you talk
about mobs and the working classes as if they were the question. You've
got that eternal idiotic idea that if anarchy came it would come from
the poor. Why should it? The poor have been rebels, but they have never
been anarchists; they have more interest than anyone else in there being
some decent government. The poor man really has a stake in the country.
The rich man hasn't; he can go away to New Guinea in a yacht. The poor
have sometimes objected to being governed badly; the rich have always
objected to being governed at all. Aristocrats were always anarchists,
as you can see from the barons' wars."
"As a lecture on English history for the little ones," said Syme, "this
is all very nice; but I have not yet grasped its application."
"Its application is," said his informant, "that most of old Sunday's
right-hand men are South African and American millionaires. That is why
he has got hold of all the communications; and that is why the last four
champions of the anti-anarchist police force are running through a wood
"Millionaires I can understand," said Syme thoughtfully, "they are
nearly all mad. But getting hold of a few wicked old gentlemen with
hobbies is one thing; getting hold of great Christian nations is
another. I would bet the nose off my face (forgive the allusion) that
Sunday would stand perfectly helpless before the task of converting any
ordinary healthy person anywhere."
"Well," said the other, "it rather depends what sort of person you
"Well, for instance," said Syme, "he could never convert that person,"
and he pointed straight in front of him.
They had come to an open space of sunlight, which seemed to express to
Syme the final return of his own good sense; and in the middle of this
forest clearing was a figure that might well stand for that common
sense in an almost awful actuality. Burnt by the sun and stained with
perspiration, and grave with the bottomless gravity of small necessary
toils, a heavy French peasant was cutting wood with a hatchet. His cart
stood a few yards off, already half full of timber; and the horse that
cropped the grass was, like his master, valorous but not desperate; like
his master, he was even prosperous, but yet was almost sad. The man was
a Norman, taller than the average of the French and very angular; and
his swarthy figure stood dark against a square of sunlight, almost like
some allegoric figure of labour frescoed on a ground of gold.
"Mr. Syme is saying," called out Ratcliffe to the French Colonel, "that
this man, at least, will never be an anarchist."
"Mr. Syme is right enough there," answered Colonel Ducroix, laughing,
"if only for the reason that he has plenty of property to defend. But I
forgot that in your country you are not used to peasants being wealthy."
"He looks poor," said Dr. Bull doubtfully.
"Quite so," said the Colonel; "that is why he is rich."
"I have an idea," called out Dr. Bull suddenly; "how much would he take
to give us a lift in his cart? Those dogs are all on foot, and we could
soon leave them behind."
"Oh, give him anything!" said Syme eagerly. "I have piles of money on
"That will never do," said the Colonel; "he will never have any respect
for you unless you drive a bargain."
"Oh, if he haggles!" began Bull impatiently.
"He haggles because he is a free man," said the other. "You do not
understand; he would not see the meaning of generosity. He is not being
And even while they seemed to hear the heavy feet of their strange
pursuers behind them, they had to stand and stamp while the French
Colonel talked to the French wood-cutter with all the leisurely badinage
and bickering of market-day. At the end of the four minutes, however,
they saw that the Colonel was right, for the wood-cutter entered into
their plans, not with the vague servility of a tout too-well paid, but
with the seriousness of a solicitor who had been paid the proper fee. He
told them that the best thing they could do was to make their way down
to the little inn on the hills above Lancy, where the innkeeper, an old
soldier who had become devout in his latter years, would be certain to
sympathise with them, and even to take risks in their support. The whole
company, therefore, piled themselves on top of the stacks of wood, and
went rocking in the rude cart down the other and steeper side of the
woodland. Heavy and ramshackle as was the vehicle, it was driven quickly
enough, and they soon had the exhilarating impression of distancing
altogether those, whoever they were, who were hunting them. For, after
all, the riddle as to where the anarchists had got all these followers
was still unsolved. One man's presence had sufficed for them; they had
fled at the first sight of the deformed smile of the Secretary. Syme
every now and then looked back over his shoulder at the army on their
As the wood grew first thinner and then smaller with distance, he could
see the sunlit slopes beyond it and above it; and across these was
still moving the square black mob like one monstrous beetle. In the very
strong sunlight and with his own very strong eyes, which were almost
telescopic, Syme could see this mass of men quite plainly. He could see
them as separate human figures; but he was increasingly surprised by the
way in which they moved as one man. They seemed to be dressed in dark
clothes and plain hats, like any common crowd out of the streets; but
they did not spread and sprawl and trail by various lines to the attack,
as would be natural in an ordinary mob. They moved with a sort of
dreadful and wicked woodenness, like a staring army of automatons.
Syme pointed this out to Ratcliffe.
"Yes," replied the policeman, "that's discipline. That's Sunday. He is
perhaps five hundred miles off, but the fear of him is on all of them,
like the finger of God. Yes, they are walking regularly; and you bet
your boots that they are talking regularly, yes, and thinking regularly.
But the one important thing for us is that they are disappearing
Syme nodded. It was true that the black patch of the pursuing men was
growing smaller and smaller as the peasant belaboured his horse.
The level of the sunlit landscape, though flat as a whole, fell away on
the farther side of the wood in billows of heavy slope towards the
sea, in a way not unlike the lower slopes of the Sussex downs. The
only difference was that in Sussex the road would have been broken and
angular like a little brook, but here the white French road fell sheer
in front of them like a waterfall. Down this direct descent the cart
clattered at a considerable angle, and in a few minutes, the road
growing yet steeper, they saw below them the little harbour of Lancy and
a great blue arc of the sea. The travelling cloud of their enemies had
wholly disappeared from the horizon.
The horse and cart took a sharp turn round a clump of elms, and the
horse's nose nearly struck the face of an old gentleman who was sitting
on the benches outside the little cafe of "Le Soleil d'Or." The
peasant grunted an apology, and got down from his seat. The others also
descended one by one, and spoke to the old gentleman with fragmentary
phrases of courtesy, for it was quite evident from his expansive manner
that he was the owner of the little tavern.
He was a white-haired, apple-faced old boy, with sleepy eyes and a grey
moustache; stout, sedentary, and very innocent, of a type that may
often be found in France, but is still commoner in Catholic Germany.
Everything about him, his pipe, his pot of beer, his flowers, and his
beehive, suggested an ancestral peace; only when his visitors looked up
as they entered the inn-parlour, they saw the sword upon the wall.
The Colonel, who greeted the innkeeper as an old friend, passed rapidly
into the inn-parlour, and sat down ordering some ritual refreshment. The
military decision of his action interested Syme, who sat next to him,
and he took the opportunity when the old innkeeper had gone out of
satisfying his curiosity.
"May I ask you, Colonel," he said in a low voice, "why we have come
Colonel Ducroix smiled behind his bristly white moustache.
"For two reasons, sir," he said; "and I will give first, not the most
important, but the most utilitarian. We came here because this is the
only place within twenty miles in which we can get horses."
"Horses!" repeated Syme, looking up quickly.
"Yes," replied the other; "if you people are really to distance your
enemies it is horses or nothing for you, unless of course you have
bicycles and motor-cars in your pocket."
"And where do you advise us to make for?" asked Syme doubtfully.
"Beyond question," replied the Colonel, "you had better make all haste
to the police station beyond the town. My friend, whom I seconded under
somewhat deceptive circumstances, seems to me to exaggerate very
much the possibilities of a general rising; but even he would hardly
maintain, I suppose, that you were not safe with the gendarmes."
Syme nodded gravely; then he said abruptly--
"And your other reason for coming here?"
"My other reason for coming here," said Ducroix soberly, "is that it
is just as well to see a good man or two when one is possibly near to
Syme looked up at the wall, and saw a crudely-painted and pathetic
religious picture. Then he said--
"You are right," and then almost immediately afterwards, "Has anyone
seen about the horses?"
"Yes," answered Ducroix, "you may be quite certain that I gave orders
the moment I came in. Those enemies of yours gave no impression of
hurry, but they were really moving wonderfully fast, like a well-trained
army. I had no idea that the anarchists had so much discipline. You have
not a moment to waste."
Almost as he spoke, the old innkeeper with the blue eyes and white hair
came ambling into the room, and announced that six horses were saddled
By Ducroix's advice the five others equipped themselves with some
portable form of food and wine, and keeping their duelling swords as the
only weapons available, they clattered away down the steep, white road.
The two servants, who had carried the Marquis's luggage when he was a
marquis, were left behind to drink at the cafe by common consent, and
not at all against their own inclination.
By this time the afternoon sun was slanting westward, and by its rays
Syme could see the sturdy figure of the old innkeeper growing smaller
and smaller, but still standing and looking after them quite silently,
the sunshine in his silver hair. Syme had a fixed, superstitious fancy,
left in his mind by the chance phrase of the Colonel, that this was
indeed, perhaps, the last honest stranger whom he should ever see upon
He was still looking at this dwindling figure, which stood as a mere
grey blot touched with a white flame against the great green wall of the
steep down behind him. And as he stared over the top of the down behind
the innkeeper, there appeared an army of black-clad and marching men.
They seemed to hang above the good man and his house like a black cloud
of locusts. The horses had been saddled none too soon.
CHAPTER XII. THE EARTH IN ANARCHY
URGING the horses to a gallop, without respect to the rather rugged
descent of the road, the horsemen soon regained their advantage over the
men on the march, and at last the bulk of the first buildings of Lancy
cut off the sight of their pursuers. Nevertheless, the ride had been
a long one, and by the time they reached the real town the west was
warming with the colour and quality of sunset. The Colonel suggested
that, before making finally for the police station, they should make
the effort, in passing, to attach to themselves one more individual who
might be useful.
"Four out of the five rich men in this town," he said, "are common
swindlers. I suppose the proportion is pretty equal all over the world.
The fifth is a friend of mine, and a very fine fellow; and what is even
more important from our point of view, he owns a motor-car."
"I am afraid," said the Professor in his mirthful way, looking back
along the white road on which the black, crawling patch might appear at
any moment, "I am afraid we have hardly time for afternoon calls."
"Doctor Renard's house is only three minutes off," said the Colonel.
"Our danger," said Dr. Bull, "is not two minutes off."
"Yes," said Syme, "if we ride on fast we must leave them behind, for
they are on foot."
"He has a motor-car," said the Colonel.
"But we may not get it," said Bull.
"Yes, he is quite on your side."
"But he might be out."
"Hold your tongue," said Syme suddenly. "What is that noise?"
For a second they all sat as still as equestrian statues, and for
a second--for two or three or four seconds--heaven and earth seemed
equally still. Then all their ears, in an agony of attention, heard
along the road that indescribable thrill and throb that means only one
The Colonel's face had an instantaneous change, as if lightning had
struck it, and yet left it scatheless.
"They have done us," he said, with brief military irony. "Prepare to
"Where can they have got the horses?" asked Syme, as he mechanically
urged his steed to a canter.
The Colonel was silent for a little, then he said in a strained voice--
"I was speaking with strict accuracy when I said that the 'Soleil d'Or'
was the only place where one can get horses within twenty miles."
"No!" said Syme violently, "I don't believe he'd do it. Not with all
that white hair."
"He may have been forced," said the Colonel gently. "They must be at
least a hundred strong, for which reason we are all going to see my
friend Renard, who has a motor-car."
With these words he swung his horse suddenly round a street corner, and
went down the street with such thundering speed, that the others, though
already well at the gallop, had difficulty in following the flying tail
of his horse.
Dr. Renard inhabited a high and comfortable house at the top of a steep
street, so that when the riders alighted at his door they could once
more see the solid green ridge of the hill, with the white road across
it, standing up above all the roofs of the town. They breathed again to
see that the road as yet was clear, and they rang the bell.
Dr. Renard was a beaming, brown-bearded man, a good example of that
silent but very busy professional class which France has preserved even
more perfectly than England. When the matter was explained to him he
pooh-poohed the panic of the ex-Marquis altogether; he said, with the
solid French scepticism, that there was no conceivable probability of a
general anarchist rising. "Anarchy," he said, shrugging his shoulders,
"it is childishness!"
"Et ca," cried out the Colonel suddenly, pointing over the other's
shoulder, "and that is childishness, isn't it?"
They all looked round, and saw a curve of black cavalry come sweeping
over the top of the hill with all the energy of Attila. Swiftly as they
rode, however, the whole rank still kept well together, and they could
see the black vizards of the first line as level as a line of uniforms.
But although the main black square was the same, though travelling
faster, there was now one sensational difference which they could see
clearly upon the slope of the hill, as if upon a slanted map. The bulk
of the riders were in one block; but one rider flew far ahead of the
column, and with frantic movements of hand and heel urged his horse
faster and faster, so that one might have fancied that he was not the
pursuer but the pursued. But even at that great distance they could see
something so fanatical, so unquestionable in his figure, that they
knew it was the Secretary himself. "I am sorry to cut short a cultured
discussion," said the Colonel, "but can you lend me your motor-car now,
in two minutes?"
"I have a suspicion that you are all mad," said Dr. Renard, smiling
sociably; "but God forbid that madness should in any way interrupt
friendship. Let us go round to the garage."
Dr. Renard was a mild man with monstrous wealth; his rooms were like the
Musee de Cluny, and he had three motor-cars. These, however, he seemed
to use very sparingly, having the simple tastes of the French middle
class, and when his impatient friends came to examine them, it took them
some time to assure themselves that one of them even could be made
to work. This with some difficulty they brought round into the street
before the Doctor's house. When they came out of the dim garage
they were startled to find that twilight had already fallen with the
abruptness of night in the tropics. Either they had been longer in the
place than they imagined, or some unusual canopy of cloud had gathered
over the town. They looked down the steep streets, and seemed to see a
slight mist coming up from the sea.
"It is now or never," said Dr. Bull. "I hear horses."
"No," corrected the Professor, "a horse."
And as they listened, it was evident that the noise, rapidly coming
nearer on the rattling stones, was not the noise of the whole cavalcade
but that of the one horseman, who had left it far behind--the insane
Syme's family, like most of those who end in the simple life, had once
owned a motor, and he knew all about them. He had leapt at once into the
chauffeur's seat, and with flushed face was wrenching and tugging at the
disused machinery. He bent his strength upon one handle, and then said
"I am afraid it's no go."
As he spoke, there swept round the corner a man rigid on his rushing
horse, with the rush and rigidity of an arrow. He had a smile that
thrust out his chin as if it were dislocated. He swept alongside of the
stationary car, into which its company had crowded, and laid his hand
on the front. It was the Secretary, and his mouth went quite straight in
the solemnity of triumph.
Syme was leaning hard upon the steering wheel, and there was no sound
but the rumble of the other pursuers riding into the town. Then there
came quite suddenly a scream of scraping iron, and the car leapt
forward. It plucked the Secretary clean out of his saddle, as a knife
is whipped out of its sheath, trailed him kicking terribly for twenty
yards, and left him flung flat upon the road far in front of his
frightened horse. As the car took the corner of the street with a
splendid curve, they could just see the other anarchists filling the
street and raising their fallen leader.
"I can't understand why it has grown so dark," said the Professor at
last in a low voice.
"Going to be a storm, I think," said Dr. Bull. "I say, it's a pity we
haven't got a light on this car, if only to see by."
"We have," said the Colonel, and from the floor of the car he fished up
a heavy, old-fashioned, carved iron lantern with a light inside it. It
was obviously an antique, and it would seem as if its original use had
been in some way semi-religious, for there was a rude moulding of a
cross upon one of its sides.
"Where on earth did you get that?" asked the Professor.
"I got it where I got the car," answered the Colonel, chuckling, "from
my best friend. While our friend here was fighting with the steering
wheel, I ran up the front steps of the house and spoke to Renard, who
was standing in his own porch, you will remember. 'I suppose,' I said,
'there's no time to get a lamp.' He looked up, blinking amiably at the
beautiful arched ceiling of his own front hall. From this was suspended,
by chains of exquisite ironwork, this lantern, one of the hundred
treasures of his treasure house. By sheer force he tore the lamp out of
his own ceiling, shattering the painted panels, and bringing down two
blue vases with his violence. Then he handed me the iron lantern, and I
put it in the car. Was I not right when I said that Dr. Renard was worth
"You were," said Syme seriously, and hung the heavy lantern over the
front. There was a certain allegory of their whole position in the
contrast between the modern automobile and its strange ecclesiastical
lamp. Hitherto they had passed through the quietest part of the town,
meeting at most one or two pedestrians, who could give them no hint of
the peace or the hostility of the place. Now, however, the windows in
the houses began one by one to be lit up, giving a greater sense of
habitation and humanity. Dr. Bull turned to the new detective who had
led their flight, and permitted himself one of his natural and friendly
"These lights make one feel more cheerful."
Inspector Ratcliffe drew his brows together.
"There is only one set of lights that make me more cheerful," he said,
"and they are those lights of the police station which I can see beyond
the town. Please God we may be there in ten minutes."
Then all Bull's boiling good sense and optimism broke suddenly out of
"Oh, this is all raving nonsense!" he cried. "If you really think that
ordinary people in ordinary houses are anarchists, you must be madder
than an anarchist yourself. If we turned and fought these fellows, the
whole town would fight for us."
"No," said the other with an immovable simplicity, "the whole town would
fight for them. We shall see."
While they were speaking the Professor had leant forward with sudden
"What is that noise?" he said.
"Oh, the horses behind us, I suppose," said the Colonel. "I thought we
had got clear of them."
"The horses behind us! No," said the Professor, "it is not horses, and
it is not behind us."
Almost as he spoke, across the end of the street before them two shining
and rattling shapes shot past. They were gone almost in a flash, but
everyone could see that they were motor-cars, and the Professor stood up
with a pale face and swore that they were the other two motor-cars from
Dr. Renard's garage.
"I tell you they were his," he repeated, with wild eyes, "and they were
full of men in masks!"
"Absurd!" said the Colonel angrily. "Dr. Renard would never give them
"He may have been forced," said Ratcliffe quietly. "The whole town is on
"You still believe that," asked the Colonel incredulously.
"You will all believe it soon," said the other with a hopeless calm.
There was a puzzled pause for some little time, and then the Colonel
began again abruptly--
"No, I can't believe it. The thing is nonsense. The plain people of a
peaceable French town--"
He was cut short by a bang and a blaze of light, which seemed close to
his eyes. As the car sped on it left a floating patch of white smoke
behind it, and Syme had heard a shot shriek past his ear.
"My God!" said the Colonel, "someone has shot at us."
"It need not interrupt conversation," said the gloomy Ratcliffe. "Pray
resume your remarks, Colonel. You were talking, I think, about the plain
people of a peaceable French town."
The staring Colonel was long past minding satire. He rolled his eyes all
round the street.
"It is extraordinary," he said, "most extraordinary."
"A fastidious person," said Syme, "might even call it unpleasant.
However, I suppose those lights out in the field beyond this street are
the Gendarmerie. We shall soon get there."
"No," said Inspector Ratcliffe, "we shall never get there."
He had been standing up and looking keenly ahead of him. Now he sat down
and smoothed his sleek hair with a weary gesture.
"What do you mean?" asked Bull sharply.
"I mean that we shall never get there," said the pessimist placidly.
"They have two rows of armed men across the road already; I can see them
from here. The town is in arms, as I said it was. I can only wallow in
the exquisite comfort of my own exactitude."
And Ratcliffe sat down comfortably in the car and lit a cigarette, but
the others rose excitedly and stared down the road. Syme had slowed down
the car as their plans became doubtful, and he brought it finally to
a standstill just at the corner of a side street that ran down very
steeply to the sea.
The town was mostly in shadow, but the sun had not sunk; wherever its
level light could break through, it painted everything a burning gold.
Up this side street the last sunset light shone as sharp and narrow as
the shaft of artificial light at the theatre. It struck the car of the
five friends, and lit it like a burning chariot. But the rest of the
street, especially the two ends of it, was in the deepest twilight, and
for some seconds they could see nothing. Then Syme, whose eyes were the
keenest, broke into a little bitter whistle, and said,
"It is quite true. There is a crowd or an army or some such thing across
the end of that street."
"Well, if there is," said Bull impatiently, "it must be something
else--a sham fight or the mayor's birthday or something. I cannot and
will not believe that plain, jolly people in a place like this walk
about with dynamite in their pockets. Get on a bit, Syme, and let us
look at them."
The car crawled about a hundred yards farther, and then they were all
startled by Dr. Bull breaking into a high crow of laughter.
"Why, you silly mugs!" he cried, "what did I tell you. That crowd's as
law-abiding as a cow, and if it weren't, it's on our side."
"How do you know?" asked the professor, staring.
"You blind bat," cried Bull, "don't you see who is leading them?"
They peered again, and then the Colonel, with a catch in his voice,
"Why, it's Renard!"
There was, indeed, a rank of dim figures running across the road, and
they could not be clearly seen; but far enough in front to catch the
accident of the evening light was stalking up and down the unmistakable
Dr. Renard, in a white hat, stroking his long brown beard, and holding a
revolver in his left hand.
"What a fool I've been!" exclaimed the Colonel. "Of course, the dear old
boy has turned out to help us."
Dr. Bull was bubbling over with laughter, swinging the sword in his hand
as carelessly as a cane. He jumped out of the car and ran across the
intervening space, calling out--
"Dr. Renard! Dr. Renard!"
An instant after Syme thought his own eyes had gone mad in his head. For
the philanthropic Dr. Renard had deliberately raised his revolver and
fired twice at Bull, so that the shots rang down the road.
Almost at the same second as the puff of white cloud went up from this
atrocious explosion a long puff of white cloud went up also from the
cigarette of the cynical Ratcliffe. Like all the rest he turned a little
pale, but he smiled. Dr. Bull, at whom the bullets had been fired, just
missing his scalp, stood quite still in the middle of the road without
a sign of fear, and then turned very slowly and crawled back to the car,
and climbed in with two holes through his hat.
"Well," said the cigarette smoker slowly, "what do you think now?"
"I think," said Dr. Bull with precision, "that I am lying in bed at No.
217 Peabody Buildings, and that I shall soon wake up with a jump; or,
if that's not it, I think that I am sitting in a small cushioned cell in
Hanwell, and that the doctor can't make much of my case. But if you want
to know what I don't think, I'll tell you. I don't think what you think.
I don't think, and I never shall think, that the mass of ordinary men
are a pack of dirty modern thinkers. No, sir, I'm a democrat, and I
still don't believe that Sunday could convert one average navvy or
counter-jumper. No, I may be mad, but humanity isn't."
Syme turned his bright blue eyes on Bull with an earnestness which he
did not commonly make clear.
"You are a very fine fellow," he said. "You can believe in a sanity
which is not merely your sanity. And you're right enough about humanity,
about peasants and people like that jolly old innkeeper. But you're not
right about Renard. I suspected him from the first. He's rationalistic,
and, what's worse, he's rich. When duty and religion are really
destroyed, it will be by the rich."
"They are really destroyed now," said the man with a cigarette, and rose
with his hands in his pockets. "The devils are coming on!"
The men in the motor-car looked anxiously in the direction of his dreamy
gaze, and they saw that the whole regiment at the end of the road was
advancing upon them, Dr. Renard marching furiously in front, his beard
flying in the breeze.
The Colonel sprang out of the car with an intolerant exclamation.
"Gentlemen," he cried, "the thing is incredible. It must be a practical
joke. If you knew Renard as I do--it's like calling Queen Victoria a
dynamiter. If you had got the man's character into your head--"
"Dr. Bull," said Syme sardonically, "has at least got it into his hat."
"I tell you it can't be!" cried the Colonel, stamping.
"Renard shall explain it. He shall explain it to me," and he strode
"Don't be in such a hurry," drawled the smoker. "He will very soon
explain it to all of us."
But the impatient Colonel was already out of earshot, advancing towards
the advancing enemy. The excited Dr. Renard lifted his pistol again, but
perceiving his opponent, hesitated, and the Colonel came face to face
with him with frantic gestures of remonstrance.
"It is no good," said Syme. "He will never get anything out of that old
heathen. I vote we drive bang through the thick of them, bang as the
bullets went through Bull's hat. We may all be killed, but we must kill
a tidy number of them."
"I won't 'ave it," said Dr. Bull, growing more vulgar in the sincerity
of his virtue. "The poor chaps may be making a mistake. Give the Colonel
"Shall we go back, then?" asked the Professor.
"No," said Ratcliffe in a cold voice, "the street behind us is held too.
In fact, I seem to see there another friend of yours, Syme."
Syme spun round smartly, and stared backwards at the track which they
had travelled. He saw an irregular body of horsemen gathering and
galloping towards them in the gloom. He saw above the foremost saddle
the silver gleam of a sword, and then as it grew nearer the silver gleam
of an old man's hair. The next moment, with shattering violence, he had
swung the motor round and sent it dashing down the steep side street to
the sea, like a man that desired only to die.
"What the devil is up?" cried the Professor, seizing his arm.
"The morning star has fallen!" said Syme, as his own car went down the
darkness like a falling star.
The others did not understand his words, but when they looked back at
the street above they saw the hostile cavalry coming round the corner
and down the slopes after them; and foremost of all rode the good
innkeeper, flushed with the fiery innocence of the evening light.
"The world is insane!" said the Professor, and buried his face in his
"No," said Dr. Bull in adamantine humility, "it is I."
"What are we going to do?" asked the Professor.
"At this moment," said Syme, with a scientific detachment, "I think we
are going to smash into a lamppost."
The next instant the automobile had come with a catastrophic jar against
an iron object. The instant after that four men had crawled out from
under a chaos of metal, and a tall lean lamp-post that had stood up
straight on the edge of the marine parade stood out, bent and twisted,
like the branch of a broken tree.
"Well, we smashed something," said the Professor, with a faint smile.
"That's some comfort."
"You're becoming an anarchist," said Syme, dusting his clothes with his
instinct of daintiness.
"Everyone is," said Ratcliffe.
As they spoke, the white-haired horseman and his followers came
thundering from above, and almost at the same moment a dark string of
men ran shouting along the sea-front. Syme snatched a sword, and took it
in his teeth; he stuck two others under his arm-pits, took a fourth
in his left hand and the lantern in his right, and leapt off the high
parade on to the beach below.
The others leapt after him, with a common acceptance of such decisive
action, leaving the debris and the gathering mob above them.
"We have one more chance," said Syme, taking the steel out of his mouth.
"Whatever all this pandemonium means, I suppose the police station will
help us. We can't get there, for they hold the way. But there's a pier
or breakwater runs out into the sea just here, which we could defend
longer than anything else, like Horatius and his bridge. We must defend
it till the Gendarmerie turn out. Keep after me."
They followed him as he went crunching down the beach, and in a second
or two their boots broke not on the sea gravel, but on broad, flat
stones. They marched down a long, low jetty, running out in one arm into
the dim, boiling sea, and when they came to the end of it they felt that
they had come to the end of their story. They turned and faced the town.
That town was transfigured with uproar. All along the high parade from
which they had just descended was a dark and roaring stream of humanity,
with tossing arms and fiery faces, groping and glaring towards them. The
long dark line was dotted with torches and lanterns; but even where no
flame lit up a furious face, they could see in the farthest figure, in
the most shadowy gesture, an organised hate. It was clear that they were
the accursed of all men, and they knew not why.
Two or three men, looking little and black like monkeys, leapt over the
edge as they had done and dropped on to the beach. These came ploughing
down the deep sand, shouting horribly, and strove to wade into the sea
at random. The example was followed, and the whole black mass of men
began to run and drip over the edge like black treacle.
Foremost among the men on the beach Syme saw the peasant who had driven
their cart. He splashed into the surf on a huge cart-horse, and shook
his axe at them.
"The peasant!" cried Syme. "They have not risen since the Middle Ages."
"Even if the police do come now," said the Professor mournfully, "they
can do nothing with this mob."
"Nonsense!" said Bull desperately; "there must be some people left in
the town who are human."
"No," said the hopeless Inspector, "the human being will soon be
extinct. We are the last of mankind."
"It may be," said the Professor absently. Then he added in his dreamy
voice, "What is all that at the end of the 'Dunciad'?
'Nor public flame; nor private, dares to shine;
Nor human light is left, nor glimpse divine!
Lo! thy dread Empire, Chaos, is restored;
Light dies before thine uncreating word:
Thy hand, great Anarch, lets the curtain fall;
And universal darkness buries all.'"
"Stop!" cried Bull suddenly, "the gendarmes are out."
The low lights of the police station were indeed blotted and broken
with hurrying figures, and they heard through the darkness the clash and
jingle of a disciplined cavalry.
"They are charging the mob!" cried Bull in ecstacy or alarm.
"No," said Syme, "they are formed along the parade."
"They have unslung their carbines," cried Bull dancing with excitement.
"Yes," said Ratcliffe, "and they are going to fire on us."
As he spoke there came a long crackle of musketry, and bullets seemed to
hop like hailstones on the stones in front of them.
"The gendarmes have joined them!" cried the Professor, and struck his
"I am in the padded cell," said Bull solidly.
There was a long silence, and then Ratcliffe said, looking out over the
swollen sea, all a sort of grey purple--
"What does it matter who is mad or who is sane? We shall all be dead
Syme turned to him and said--
"You are quite hopeless, then?"
Mr. Ratcliffe kept a stony silence; then at last he said quietly--
"No; oddly enough I am not quite hopeless. There is one insane little
hope that I cannot get out of my mind. The power of this whole planet
is against us, yet I cannot help wondering whether this one silly little
hope is hopeless yet."
"In what or whom is your hope?" asked Syme with curiosity.
"In a man I never saw," said the other, looking at the leaden sea.
"I know what you mean," said Syme in a low voice, "the man in the dark
room. But Sunday must have killed him by now."
"Perhaps," said the other steadily; "but if so, he was the only man whom
Sunday found it hard to kill."
"I heard what you said," said the Professor, with his back turned. "I
also am holding hard on to the thing I never saw."
All of a sudden Syme, who was standing as if blind with introspective
thought, swung round and cried out, like a man waking from sleep--
"Where is the Colonel? I thought he was with us!"
"The Colonel! Yes," cried Bull, "where on earth is the Colonel?"
"He went to speak to Renard," said the Professor.
"We cannot leave him among all those beasts," cried Syme. "Let us die
like gentlemen if--"
"Do not pity the Colonel," said Ratcliffe, with a pale sneer. "He is
extremely comfortable. He is--"
"No! no! no!" cried Syme in a kind of frenzy, "not the Colonel too! I
will never believe it!"
"Will you believe your eyes?" asked the other, and pointed to the beach.
Many of their pursuers had waded into the water shaking their fists,
but the sea was rough, and they could not reach the pier. Two or three
figures, however, stood on the beginning of the stone footway, and
seemed to be cautiously advancing down it. The glare of a chance lantern
lit up the faces of the two foremost. One face wore a black half-mask,
and under it the mouth was twisting about in such a madness of nerves
that the black tuft of beard wriggled round and round like a restless,
living thing. The other was the red face and white moustache of Colonel
Ducroix. They were in earnest consultation.
"Yes, he is gone too," said the Professor, and sat down on a stone.
"Everything's gone. I'm gone! I can't trust my own bodily machinery. I
feel as if my own hand might fly up and strike me."
"When my hand flies up," said Syme, "it will strike somebody else," and
he strode along the pier towards the Colonel, the sword in one hand and
the lantern in the other.
As if to destroy the last hope or doubt, the Colonel, who saw him
coming, pointed his revolver at him and fired. The shot missed Syme,
but struck his sword, breaking it short at the hilt. Syme rushed on, and
swung the iron lantern above his head.
"Judas before Herod!" he said, and struck the Colonel down upon the
stones. Then he turned to the Secretary, whose frightful mouth was
almost foaming now, and held the lamp high with so rigid and arresting
a gesture, that the man was, as it were, frozen for a moment, and forced
"Do you see this lantern?" cried Syme in a terrible voice. "Do you see
the cross carved on it, and the flame inside? You did not make it. You
did not light it. Better men than you, men who could believe and obey,
twisted the entrails of iron and preserved the legend of fire. There is
not a street you walk on, there is not a thread you wear, that was not
made as this lantern was, by denying your philosophy of dirt and rats.
You can make nothing. You can only destroy. You will destroy mankind;
you will destroy the world. Let that suffice you. Yet this one old
Christian lantern you shall not destroy. It shall go where your empire
of apes will never have the wit to find it."
He struck the Secretary once with the lantern so that he staggered; and
then, whirling it twice round his head, sent it flying far out to sea,
where it flared like a roaring rocket and fell.
"Swords!" shouted Syme, turning his flaming face to the three behind
him. "Let us charge these dogs, for our time has come to die."
His three companions came after him sword in hand. Syme's sword was
broken, but he rent a bludgeon from the fist of a fisherman, flinging
him down. In a moment they would have flung themselves upon the face
of the mob and perished, when an interruption came. The Secretary, ever
since Syme's speech, had stood with his hand to his stricken head as if
dazed; now he suddenly pulled off his black mask.
The pale face thus peeled in the lamplight revealed not so much rage as
astonishment. He put up his hand with an anxious authority.
"There is some mistake," he said. "Mr. Syme, I hardly think you
understand your position. I arrest you in the name of the law."
"Of the law?" said Syme, and dropped his stick.
"Certainly!" said the Secretary. "I am a detective from Scotland Yard,"
and he took a small blue card from his pocket.
"And what do you suppose we are?" asked the Professor, and threw up his
"You," said the Secretary stiffly, "are, as I know for a fact, members
of the Supreme Anarchist Council. Disguised as one of you, I--"
Dr. Bull tossed his sword into the sea.
"There never was any Supreme Anarchist Council," he said. "We were all a
lot of silly policemen looking at each other. And all these nice people
who have been peppering us with shot thought we were the dynamiters.
I knew I couldn't be wrong about the mob," he said, beaming over the
enormous multitude, which stretched away to the distance on both sides.
"Vulgar people are never mad. I'm vulgar myself, and I know. I am now
going on shore to stand a drink to everybody here."
CHAPTER XIII. THE PURSUIT OF THE PRESIDENT
NEXT morning five bewildered but hilarious people took the boat for
Dover. The poor old Colonel might have had some cause to complain,
having been first forced to fight for two factions that didn't exist,
and then knocked down with an iron lantern. But he was a magnanimous old
gentleman, and being much relieved that neither party had anything to do
with dynamite, he saw them off on the pier with great geniality.
The five reconciled detectives had a hundred details to explain to each
other. The Secretary had to tell Syme how they had come to wear
masks originally in order to approach the supposed enemy as
Syme had to explain how they had fled with such swiftness through a
civilised country. But above all these matters of detail which could be
explained, rose the central mountain of the matter that they could not
explain. What did it all mean? If they were all harmless officers, what
was Sunday? If he had not seized the world, what on earth had he been up
to? Inspector Ratcliffe was still gloomy about this.
"I can't make head or tail of old Sunday's little game any more than
you can," he said. "But whatever else Sunday is, he isn't a blameless
citizen. Damn it! do you remember his face?"
"I grant you," answered Syme, "that I have never been able to forget
"Well," said the Secretary, "I suppose we can find out soon, for
tomorrow we have our next general meeting. You will excuse me," he
said, with a rather ghastly smile, "for being well acquainted with my
"I suppose you are right," said the Professor reflectively. "I suppose
we might find it out from him; but I confess that I should feel a bit
afraid of asking Sunday who he really is."
"Why," asked the Secretary, "for fear of bombs?"
"No," said the Professor, "for fear he might tell me."
"Let us have some drinks," said Dr. Bull, after a silence.
Throughout their whole journey by boat and train they were highly
convivial, but they instinctively kept together. Dr. Bull, who had
always been the optimist of the party, endeavoured to persuade the
other four that the whole company could take the same hansom cab from
Victoria; but this was over-ruled, and they went in a four-wheeler, with
Dr. Bull on the box, singing. They finished their journey at an hotel in
Piccadilly Circus, so as to be close to the early breakfast next morning
in Leicester Square. Yet even then the adventures of the day were not
entirely over. Dr. Bull, discontented with the general proposal to go to
bed, had strolled out of the hotel at about eleven to see and taste some
of the beauties of London. Twenty minutes afterwards, however, he came
back and made quite a clamour in the hall. Syme, who tried at first to
soothe him, was forced at last to listen to his communication with quite
"I tell you I've seen him!" said Dr. Bull, with thick emphasis.
"Whom?" asked Syme quickly. "Not the President?"
"Not so bad as that," said Dr. Bull, with unnecessary laughter, "not so
bad as that. I've got him here."
"Got whom here?" asked Syme impatiently.
"Hairy man," said the other lucidly, "man that used to be hairy
man--Gogol. Here he is," and he pulled forward by a reluctant elbow the
identical young man who five days before had marched out of the Council
with thin red hair and a pale face, the first of all the sham anarchists
who had been exposed.
"Why do you worry with me?" he cried. "You have expelled me as a spy."
"We are all spies!" whispered Syme.
"We're all spies!" shouted Dr. Bull. "Come and have a drink."
Next morning the battalion of the reunited six marched stolidly towards
the hotel in Leicester Square.
"This is more cheerful," said Dr. Bull; "we are six men going to ask one
man what he means."
"I think it is a bit queerer than that," said Syme. "I think it is six
men going to ask one man what they mean."
They turned in silence into the Square, and though the hotel was in the
opposite corner, they saw at once the little balcony and a figure that
looked too big for it. He was sitting alone with bent head, poring over
a newspaper. But all his councillors, who had come to vote him down,
crossed that Square as if they were watched out of heaven by a hundred
They had disputed much upon their policy, about whether they should
leave the unmasked Gogol without and begin diplomatically, or whether
they should bring him in and blow up the gunpowder at once. The
influence of Syme and Bull prevailed for the latter course, though the
Secretary to the last asked them why they attacked Sunday so rashly.
"My reason is quite simple," said Syme. "I attack him rashly because I
am afraid of him."
They followed Syme up the dark stair in silence, and they all came out
simultaneously into the broad sunlight of the morning and the broad
sunlight of Sunday's smile.
"Delightful!" he said. "So pleased to see you all. What an exquisite day
it is. Is the Czar dead?"
The Secretary, who happened to be foremost, drew himself together for a
"No, sir," he said sternly "there has been no massacre. I bring you news
of no such disgusting spectacles."
"Disgusting spectacles?" repeated the President, with a bright,
inquiring smile. "You mean Dr. Bull's spectacles?"
The Secretary choked for a moment, and the President went on with a sort
of smooth appeal--
"Of course, we all have our opinions and even our eyes, but really to
call them disgusting before the man himself--"
Dr. Bull tore off his spectacles and broke them on the table.
"My spectacles are blackguardly," he said, "but I'm not. Look at my
"I dare say it's the sort of face that grows on one," said the
President, "in fact, it grows on you; and who am I to quarrel with the
wild fruits upon the Tree of Life? I dare say it will grow on me some
"We have no time for tomfoolery," said the Secretary, breaking in
savagely. "We have come to know what all this means. Who are you? What
are you? Why did you get us all here? Do you know who and what we are?
Are you a half-witted man playing the conspirator, or are you a clever
man playing the fool? Answer me, I tell you."
"Candidates," murmured Sunday, "are only required to answer eight out of
the seventeen questions on the paper. As far as I can make out, you want
me to tell you what I am, and what you are, and what this table is, and
what this Council is, and what this world is for all I know. Well, I
will go so far as to rend the veil of one mystery. If you want to know
what you are, you are a set of highly well-intentioned young jackasses."
"And you," said Syme, leaning forward, "what are you?"
"I? What am I?" roared the President, and he rose slowly to an
incredible height, like some enormous wave about to arch above them
and break. "You want to know what I am, do you? Bull, you are a man of
science. Grub in the roots of those trees and find out the truth about
them. Syme, you are a poet. Stare at those morning clouds. But I tell
you this, that you will have found out the truth of the last tree and
the top-most cloud before the truth about me. You will understand the
sea, and I shall be still a riddle; you shall know what the stars are,
and not know what I am. Since the beginning of the world all men have
hunted me like a wolf--kings and sages, and poets and lawgivers, all the
churches, and all the philosophies. But I have never been caught yet,
and the skies will fall in the time I turn to bay. I have given them a
good run for their money, and I will now."
Before one of them could move, the monstrous man had swung himself like
some huge ourang-outang over the balustrade of the balcony. Yet before
he dropped he pulled himself up again as on a horizontal bar, and
thrusting his great chin over the edge of the balcony, said solemnly--
"There's one thing I'll tell you though about who I am. I am the man in
the dark room, who made you all policemen."
With that he fell from the balcony, bouncing on the stones below like a
great ball of india-rubber, and went bounding off towards the corner of
the Alhambra, where he hailed a hansom-cab and sprang inside it. The six
detectives had been standing thunderstruck and livid in the light of his
last assertion; but when he disappeared into the cab, Syme's practical
senses returned to him, and leaping over the balcony so recklessly as
almost to break his legs, he called another cab.
He and Bull sprang into the cab together, the Professor and the
Inspector into another, while the Secretary and the late Gogol scrambled
into a third just in time to pursue the flying Syme, who was pursuing
the flying President. Sunday led them a wild chase towards the
north-west, his cabman, evidently under the influence of more than
common inducements, urging the horse at breakneck speed. But Syme was in
no mood for delicacies, and he stood up in his own cab shouting, "Stop
thief!" until crowds ran along beside his cab, and policemen began to
stop and ask questions. All this had its influence upon the President's
cabman, who began to look dubious, and to slow down to a trot. He opened
the trap to talk reasonably to his fare, and in so doing let the long
whip droop over the front of the cab. Sunday leant forward, seized it,
and jerked it violently out of the man's hand. Then standing up in front
of the cab himself, he lashed the horse and roared aloud, so that they
went down the streets like a flying storm. Through street after street
and square after square went whirling this preposterous vehicle, in
which the fare was urging the horse and the driver trying desperately
to stop it. The other three cabs came after it (if the phrase be
permissible of a cab) like panting hounds. Shops and streets shot by
like rattling arrows.
At the highest ecstacy of speed, Sunday turned round on the splashboard
where he stood, and sticking his great grinning head out of the cab,
with white hair whistling in the wind, he made a horrible face at
his pursuers, like some colossal urchin. Then raising his right hand
swiftly, he flung a ball of paper in Syme's face and vanished. Syme
caught the thing while instinctively warding it off, and discovered that
it consisted of two crumpled papers. One was addressed to himself, and
the other to Dr. Bull, with a very long, and it is to be feared partly
ironical, string of letters after his name. Dr. Bull's address was,
at any rate, considerably longer than his communication, for the
communication consisted entirely of the words:--
"What about Martin Tupper now?"
"What does the old maniac mean?" asked Bull, staring at the words. "What
does yours say, Syme?"
Syme's message was, at any rate, longer, and ran as follows:--
"No one would regret anything in the nature of an interference by the
Archdeacon more than I. I trust it will not come to that. But, for the
last time, where are your goloshes? The thing is too bad, especially
after what uncle said."
The President's cabman seemed to be regaining some control over his
horse, and the pursuers gained a little as they swept round into the
Edgware Road. And here there occurred what seemed to the allies a
providential stoppage. Traffic of every kind was swerving to right or
left or stopping, for down the long road was coming the unmistakable
roar announcing the fire-engine, which in a few seconds went by like a
brazen thunderbolt. But quick as it went by, Sunday had bounded out of
his cab, sprung at the fire-engine, caught it, slung himself on to it,
and was seen as he disappeared in the noisy distance talking to the
astonished fireman with explanatory gestures.
"After him!" howled Syme. "He can't go astray now. There's no mistaking
The three cabmen, who had been stunned for a moment, whipped up their
horses and slightly decreased the distance between themselves and their
disappearing prey. The President acknowledged this proximity by coming
to the back of the car, bowing repeatedly, kissing his hand, and finally
flinging a neatly-folded note into the bosom of Inspector Ratcliffe.
When that gentleman opened it, not without impatience, he found it
contained the words:--
"Fly at once. The truth about your trouser-stretchers is known.
The fire-engine had struck still farther to the north, into a region
that they did not recognise; and as it ran by a line of high railings
shadowed with trees, the six friends were startled, but somewhat
relieved, to see the President leap from the fire-engine, though whether
through another whim or the increasing protest of his entertainers they
could not see. Before the three cabs, however, could reach up to the
spot, he had gone up the high railings like a huge grey cat, tossed
himself over, and vanished in a darkness of leaves.
Syme with a furious gesture stopped his cab, jumped out, and sprang also
to the escalade. When he had one leg over the fence and his friends
were following, he turned a face on them which shone quite pale in the
"What place can this be?" he asked. "Can it be the old devil's house?
I've heard he has a house in North London."
"All the better," said the Secretary grimly, planting a foot in a
foothold, "we shall find him at home."
"No, but it isn't that," said Syme, knitting his brows. "I hear the most
horrible noises, like devils laughing and sneezing and blowing their
"His dogs barking, of course," said the Secretary.
"Why not say his black-beetles barking!" said Syme furiously, "snails
barking! geraniums barking! Did you ever hear a dog bark like that?"
He held up his hand, and there came out of the thicket a long growling
roar that seemed to get under the skin and freeze the flesh--a low
thrilling roar that made a throbbing in the air all about them.
"The dogs of Sunday would be no ordinary dogs," said Gogol, and
Syme had jumped down on the other side, but he still stood listening
"Well, listen to that," he said, "is that a dog--anybody's dog?"
There broke upon their ear a hoarse screaming as of things protesting
and clamouring in sudden pain; and then, far off like an echo, what
sounded like a long nasal trumpet.
"Well, his house ought to be hell!" said the Secretary; "and if it is
hell, I'm going in!" and he sprang over the tall railings almost with
The others followed. They broke through a tangle of plants and shrubs,
and came out on an open path. Nothing was in sight, but Dr. Bull
suddenly struck his hands together.
"Why, you asses," he cried, "it's the Zoo!"
As they were looking round wildly for any trace of their wild quarry,
a keeper in uniform came running along the path with a man in plain
"Has it come this way?" gasped the keeper.
"Has what?" asked Syme.
"The elephant!" cried the keeper. "An elephant has gone mad and run
"He has run away with an old gentleman," said the other stranger
breathlessly, "a poor old gentleman with white hair!"
"What sort of old gentleman?" asked Syme, with great curiosity.
"A very large and fat old gentleman in light grey clothes," said the
"Well," said Syme, "if he's that particular kind of old gentleman,
if you're quite sure that he's a large and fat old gentleman in grey
clothes, you may take my word for it that the elephant has not run away
with him. He has run away with the elephant. The elephant is not made by
God that could run away with him if he did not consent to the elopement.
And, by thunder, there he is!"
There was no doubt about it this time. Clean across the space of grass,
about two hundred yards away, with a crowd screaming and scampering
vainly at his heels, went a huge grey elephant at an awful stride, with
his trunk thrown out as rigid as a ship's bowsprit, and trumpeting like
the trumpet of doom. On the back of the bellowing and plunging animal
sat President Sunday with all the placidity of a sultan, but goading the
animal to a furious speed with some sharp object in his hand.
"Stop him!" screamed the populace. "He'll be out of the gate!"
"Stop a landslide!" said the keeper. "He is out of the gate!"
And even as he spoke, a final crash and roar of terror announced that
the great grey elephant had broken out of the gates of the Zoological
Gardens, and was careening down Albany Street like a new and swift sort
"Great Lord!" cried Bull, "I never knew an elephant could go so fast.
Well, it must be hansom-cabs again if we are to keep him in sight."
As they raced along to the gate out of which the elephant had vanished,
Syme felt a glaring panorama of the strange animals in the cages which
they passed. Afterwards he thought it queer that he should have seen
them so clearly. He remembered especially seeing pelicans, with their
preposterous, pendant throats. He wondered why the pelican was the
symbol of charity, except it was that it wanted a good deal of charity
to admire a pelican. He remembered a hornbill, which was simply a huge
yellow beak with a small bird tied on behind it. The whole gave him a
sensation, the vividness of which he could not explain, that Nature was
always making quite mysterious jokes. Sunday had told them that they
would understand him when they had understood the stars. He wondered
whether even the archangels understood the hornbill.
The six unhappy detectives flung themselves into cabs and followed the
elephant sharing the terror which he spread through the long stretch of
the streets. This time Sunday did not turn round, but offered them the
solid stretch of his unconscious back, which maddened them, if possible,
more than his previous mockeries. Just before they came to Baker Street,
however, he was seen to throw something far up into the air, as a boy
does a ball meaning to catch it again. But at their rate of racing it
fell far behind, just by the cab containing Gogol; and in faint hope of
a clue or for some impulse unexplainable, he stopped his cab so as to
pick it up. It was addressed to himself, and was quite a bulky parcel.
On examination, however, its bulk was found to consist of thirty-three
pieces of paper of no value wrapped one round the other. When the last
covering was torn away it reduced itself to a small slip of paper, on
which was written:--
"The word, I fancy, should be 'pink'."
The man once known as Gogol said nothing, but the movements of his hands
and feet were like those of a man urging a horse to renewed efforts.
Through street after street, through district after district, went the
prodigy of the flying elephant, calling crowds to every window, and
driving the traffic left and right. And still through all this insane
publicity the three cabs toiled after it, until they came to be regarded
as part of a procession, and perhaps the advertisement of a circus. They
went at such a rate that distances were shortened beyond belief, and
Syme saw the Albert Hall in Kensington when he thought that he was still
in Paddington. The animal's pace was even more fast and free through the
empty, aristocratic streets of South Kensington, and he finally headed
towards that part of the sky-line where the enormous Wheel of Earl's
Court stood up in the sky. The wheel grew larger and larger, till it
filled heaven like the wheel of stars.
The beast outstripped the cabs. They lost him round several corners, and
when they came to one of the gates of the Earl's Court Exhibition they
found themselves finally blocked. In front of them was an enormous
crowd; in the midst of it was an enormous elephant, heaving and
shuddering as such shapeless creatures do. But the President had
"Where has he gone to?" asked Syme, slipping to the ground.
"Gentleman rushed into the Exhibition, sir!" said an official in a dazed
manner. Then he added in an injured voice: "Funny gentleman, sir. Asked
me to hold his horse, and gave me this."
He held out with distaste a piece of folded paper, addressed: "To the
Secretary of the Central Anarchist Council."
The Secretary, raging, rent it open, and found written inside it:--
"When the herring runs a mile,
Let the Secretary smile;
When the herring tries to fly,
Let the Secretary die.
"Why the eternal crikey," began the Secretary, "did you let the man in?
Do people commonly come to your Exhibition riding on mad elephants? Do--"
"Look!" shouted Syme suddenly. "Look over there!"
"Look at what?" asked the Secretary savagely.
"Look at the captive balloon!" said Syme, and pointed in a frenzy.
"Why the blazes should I look at a captive balloon?" demanded the
Secretary. "What is there queer about a captive balloon?"
"Nothing," said Syme, "except that it isn't captive!"
They all turned their eyes to where the balloon swung and swelled above
the Exhibition on a string, like a child's balloon. A second afterwards
the string came in two just under the car, and the balloon, broken
loose, floated away with the freedom of a soap bubble.
"Ten thousand devils!" shrieked the Secretary. "He's got into it!" and
he shook his fists at the sky.
The balloon, borne by some chance wind, came right above them, and they
could see the great white head of the President peering over the side
and looking benevolently down on them.
"God bless my soul!" said the Professor with the elderly manner that he
could never disconnect from his bleached beard and parchment face. "God
bless my soul! I seemed to fancy that something fell on the top of my
He put up a trembling hand and took from that shelf a piece of twisted
paper, which he opened absently only to find it inscribed with a true
lover's knot and, the words:--
"Your beauty has not left me indifferent.--From LITTLE SNOWDROP."
There was a short silence, and then Syme said, biting his beard--
"I'm not beaten yet. The blasted thing must come down somewhere. Let's
CHAPTER XIV. THE SIX PHILOSOPHERS
ACROSS green fields, and breaking through blooming hedges, toiled six
draggled detectives, about five miles out of London. The optimist of the
party had at first proposed that they should follow the balloon across
South England in hansom-cabs. But he was ultimately convinced of the
persistent refusal of the balloon to follow the roads, and the
still more persistent refusal of the cabmen to follow the balloon.
Consequently the tireless though exasperated travellers broke through
black thickets and ploughed through ploughed fields till each was turned
into a figure too outrageous to be mistaken for a tramp. Those green
hills of Surrey saw the final collapse and tragedy of the admirable
light grey suit in which Syme had set out from Saffron Park. His silk
hat was broken over his nose by a swinging bough, his coat-tails were
torn to the shoulder by arresting thorns, the clay of England was
splashed up to his collar; but he still carried his yellow beard forward
with a silent and furious determination, and his eyes were still fixed
on that floating ball of gas, which in the full flush of sunset seemed
coloured like a sunset cloud.
"After all," he said, "it is very beautiful!"
"It is singularly and strangely beautiful!" said the Professor. "I wish
the beastly gas-bag would burst!"
"No," said Dr. Bull, "I hope it won't. It might hurt the old boy."
"Hurt him!" said the vindictive Professor, "hurt him! Not as much as I'd
hurt him if I could get up with him. Little Snowdrop!"
"I don't want him hurt, somehow," said Dr. Bull.
"What!" cried the Secretary bitterly. "Do you believe all that tale
about his being our man in the dark room? Sunday would say he was
"I don't know whether I believe it or not," said Dr. Bull. "But it isn't
that that I mean. I can't wish old Sunday's balloon to burst because--"
"Well," said Syme impatiently, "because?"
"Well, because he's so jolly like a balloon himself," said Dr. Bull
desperately. "I don't understand a word of all that idea of his being
the same man who gave us all our blue cards. It seems to make everything
nonsense. But I don't care who knows it, I always had a sympathy for
old Sunday himself, wicked as he was. Just as if he was a great bouncing
baby. How can I explain what my queer sympathy was? It didn't prevent my
fighting him like hell! Shall I make it clear if I say that I liked him
because he was so fat?"
"You will not," said the Secretary.
"I've got it now," cried Bull, "it was because he was so fat and so
light. Just like a balloon. We always think of fat people as heavy, but
he could have danced against a sylph. I see now what I mean. Moderate
strength is shown in violence, supreme strength is shown in levity. It
was like the old speculations--what would happen if an elephant could
leap up in the sky like a grasshopper?"
"Our elephant," said Syme, looking upwards, "has leapt into the sky like
"And somehow," concluded Bull, "that's why I can't help liking old
Sunday. No, it's not an admiration of force, or any silly thing like
that. There is a kind of gaiety in the thing, as if he were bursting
with some good news. Haven't you sometimes felt it on a spring day?
You know Nature plays tricks, but somehow that day proves they are
good-natured tricks. I never read the Bible myself, but that part they
laugh at is literal truth, 'Why leap ye, ye high hills?' The hills do
leap--at least, they try to.... Why do I like Sunday?... how can I tell
you?... because he's such a Bounder."
There was a long silence, and then the Secretary said in a curious,
"You do not know Sunday at all. Perhaps it is because you are better
than I, and do not know hell. I was a fierce fellow, and a trifle morbid
from the first. The man who sits in darkness, and who chose us all,
chose me because I had all the crazy look of a conspirator--because my
smile went crooked, and my eyes were gloomy, even when I smiled. But
there must have been something in me that answered to the nerves in all
these anarchic men. For when I first saw Sunday he expressed to me, not
your airy vitality, but something both gross and sad in the Nature of
Things. I found him smoking in a twilight room, a room with brown blind
down, infinitely more depressing than the genial darkness in which our
master lives. He sat there on a bench, a huge heap of a man, dark and
out of shape. He listened to all my words without speaking or even
stirring. I poured out my most passionate appeals, and asked my most
eloquent questions. Then, after a long silence, the Thing began to
shake, and I thought it was shaken by some secret malady. It shook like
a loathsome and living jelly. It reminded me of everything I had ever
read about the base bodies that are the origin of life--the deep sea
lumps and protoplasm. It seemed like the final form of matter, the most
shapeless and the most shameful. I could only tell myself, from its
shudderings, that it was something at least that such a monster could
be miserable. And then it broke upon me that the bestial mountain was
shaking with a lonely laughter, and the laughter was at me. Do you
ask me to forgive him that? It is no small thing to be laughed at by
something at once lower and stronger than oneself."
"Surely you fellows are exaggerating wildly," cut in the clear voice of
Inspector Ratcliffe. "President Sunday is a terrible fellow for one's
intellect, but he is not such a Barnum's freak physically as you make
out. He received me in an ordinary office, in a grey check coat, in
broad daylight. He talked to me in an ordinary way. But I'll tell you
what is a trifle creepy about Sunday. His room is neat, his clothes are
neat, everything seems in order; but he's absent-minded. Sometimes his
great bright eyes go quite blind. For hours he forgets that you are
there. Now absent-mindedness is just a bit too awful in a bad man. We
think of a wicked man as vigilant. We can't think of a wicked man who is
honestly and sincerely dreamy, because we daren't think of a wicked man
alone with himself. An absentminded man means a good-natured man. It
means a man who, if he happens to see you, will apologise. But how will
you bear an absentminded man who, if he happens to see you, will kill
you? That is what tries the nerves, abstraction combined with cruelty.
Men have felt it sometimes when they went through wild forests, and felt
that the animals there were at once innocent and pitiless. They might
ignore or slay. How would you like to pass ten mortal hours in a parlour
with an absent-minded tiger?"
"And what do you think of Sunday, Gogol?" asked Syme.
"I don't think of Sunday on principle," said Gogol simply, "any more
than I stare at the sun at noonday."
"Well, that is a point of view," said Syme thoughtfully. "What do you
The Professor was walking with bent head and trailing stick, and he did
not answer at all.
"Wake up, Professor!" said Syme genially. "Tell us what you think of
The Professor spoke at last very slowly.
"I think something," he said, "that I cannot say clearly. Or, rather,
I think something that I cannot even think clearly. But it is something
like this. My early life, as you know, was a bit too large and loose.
"Well, when I saw Sunday's face I thought it was too large--everybody
does, but I also thought it was too loose. The face was so big, that one
couldn't focus it or make it a face at all. The eye was so far away from
the nose, that it wasn't an eye. The mouth was so much by itself,
that one had to think of it by itself. The whole thing is too hard to
He paused for a little, still trailing his stick, and then went on--
"But put it this way. Walking up a road at night, I have seen a lamp
and a lighted window and a cloud make together a most complete and
unmistakable face. If anyone in heaven has that face I shall know him
again. Yet when I walked a little farther I found that there was no
face, that the window was ten yards away, the lamp ten hundred yards,
the cloud beyond the world. Well, Sunday's face escaped me; it ran away
to right and left, as such chance pictures run away. And so his face
has made me, somehow, doubt whether there are any faces. I don't know
whether your face, Bull, is a face or a combination in perspective.
Perhaps one black disc of your beastly glasses is quite close and
another fifty miles away. Oh, the doubts of a materialist are not worth
a dump. Sunday has taught me the last and the worst doubts, the doubts
of a spiritualist. I am a Buddhist, I suppose; and Buddhism is not
a creed, it is a doubt. My poor dear Bull, I do not believe that you
really have a face. I have not faith enough to believe in matter."
Syme's eyes were still fixed upon the errant orb, which, reddened in the
evening light, looked like some rosier and more innocent world.
"Have you noticed an odd thing," he said, "about all your descriptions?
Each man of you finds Sunday quite different, yet each man of you can
only find one thing to compare him to--the universe itself. Bull
finds him like the earth in spring, Gogol like the sun at noonday. The
Secretary is reminded of the shapeless protoplasm, and the Inspector
of the carelessness of virgin forests. The Professor says he is like a
changing landscape. This is queer, but it is queerer still that I also
have had my odd notion about the President, and I also find that I think
of Sunday as I think of the whole world."
"Get on a little faster, Syme," said Bull; "never mind the balloon."
"When I first saw Sunday," said Syme slowly, "I only saw his back; and
when I saw his back, I knew he was the worst man in the world. His neck
and shoulders were brutal, like those of some apish god. His head had a
stoop that was hardly human, like the stoop of an ox. In fact, I had
at once the revolting fancy that this was not a man at all, but a beast
dressed up in men's clothes."
"Get on," said Dr. Bull.
"And then the queer thing happened. I had seen his back from the street,
as he sat in the balcony. Then I entered the hotel, and coming round the
other side of him, saw his face in the sunlight. His face frightened me,
as it did everyone; but not because it was brutal, not because it was
evil. On the contrary, it frightened me because it was so beautiful,
because it was so good."
"Syme," exclaimed the Secretary, "are you ill?"
"It was like the face of some ancient archangel, judging justly after
heroic wars. There was laughter in the eyes, and in the mouth honour
and sorrow. There was the same white hair, the same great, grey-clad
shoulders that I had seen from behind. But when I saw him from behind I
was certain he was an animal, and when I saw him in front I knew he was
"Pan," said the Professor dreamily, "was a god and an animal."
"Then, and again and always," went on Syme like a man talking to
himself, "that has been for me the mystery of Sunday, and it is also the
mystery of the world. When I see the horrible back, I am sure the noble
face is but a mask. When I see the face but for an instant, I know the
back is only a jest. Bad is so bad, that we cannot but think good an
accident; good is so good, that we feel certain that evil could be
explained. But the whole came to a kind of crest yesterday when I raced
Sunday for the cab, and was just behind him all the way."
"Had you time for thinking then?" asked Ratcliffe.
"Time," replied Syme, "for one outrageous thought. I was suddenly
possessed with the idea that the blind, blank back of his head really
was his face--an awful, eyeless face staring at me! And I fancied that
the figure running in front of me was really a figure running backwards,
and dancing as he ran."
"Horrible!" said Dr. Bull, and shuddered.
"Horrible is not the word," said Syme. "It was exactly the worst instant
of my life. And yet ten minutes afterwards, when he put his head out of
the cab and made a grimace like a gargoyle, I knew that he was only like
a father playing hide-and-seek with his children."
"It is a long game," said the Secretary, and frowned at his broken
"Listen to me," cried Syme with extraordinary emphasis. "Shall I tell
you the secret of the whole world? It is that we have only known the
back of the world. We see everything from behind, and it looks brutal.
That is not a tree, but the back of a tree. That is not a cloud, but the
back of a cloud. Cannot you see that everything is stooping and hiding a
face? If we could only get round in front--"
"Look!" cried out Bull clamorously, "the balloon is coming down!"
There was no need to cry out to Syme, who had never taken his eyes off
it. He saw the great luminous globe suddenly stagger in the sky, right
itself, and then sink slowly behind the trees like a setting sun.
The man called Gogol, who had hardly spoken through all their weary
travels, suddenly threw up his hands like a lost spirit.
"He is dead!" he cried. "And now I know he was my friend--my friend in
"Dead!" snorted the Secretary. "You will not find him dead easily. If
he has been tipped out of the car, we shall find him rolling as a colt
rolls in a field, kicking his legs for fun."
"Clashing his hoofs," said the Professor. "The colts do, and so did
"Pan again!" said Dr. Bull irritably. "You seem to think Pan is
"So he is," said the Professor, "in Greek. He means everything."
"Don't forget," said the Secretary, looking down, "that he also means
Syme had stood without hearing any of the exclamations.
"It fell over there," he said shortly. "Let us follow it!"
Then he added with an indescribable gesture--
"Oh, if he has cheated us all by getting killed! It would be like one of
He strode off towards the distant trees with a new energy, his rags
and ribbons fluttering in the wind. The others followed him in a more
footsore and dubious manner. And almost at the same moment all six men
realised that they were not alone in the little field.
Across the square of turf a tall man was advancing towards them, leaning
on a strange long staff like a sceptre. He was clad in a fine but
old-fashioned suit with knee-breeches; its colour was that shade between
blue, violet and grey which can be seen in certain shadows of the
woodland. His hair was whitish grey, and at the first glance, taken
along with his knee-breeches, looked as if it was powdered. His advance
was very quiet; but for the silver frost upon his head, he might have
been one to the shadows of the wood.
"Gentlemen," he said, "my master has a carriage waiting for you in the
road just by."
"Who is your master?" asked Syme, standing quite still.
"I was told you knew his name," said the man respectfully.
There was a silence, and then the Secretary said--
"Where is this carriage?"
"It has been waiting only a few moments," said the stranger. "My master
has only just come home."
Syme looked left and right upon the patch of green field in which
he found himself. The hedges were ordinary hedges, the trees seemed
ordinary trees; yet he felt like a man entrapped in fairyland.
He looked the mysterious ambassador up and down, but he could discover
nothing except that the man's coat was the exact colour of the purple
shadows, and that the man's face was the exact colour of the red and
brown and golden sky.
"Show us the place," Syme said briefly, and without a word the man in
the violet coat turned his back and walked towards a gap in the hedge,
which let in suddenly the light of a white road.
As the six wanderers broke out upon this thoroughfare, they saw the
white road blocked by what looked like a long row of carriages, such a
row of carriages as might close the approach to some house in Park Lane.
Along the side of these carriages stood a rank of splendid servants, all
dressed in the grey-blue uniform, and all having a certain quality of
stateliness and freedom which would not commonly belong to the servants
of a gentleman, but rather to the officials and ambassadors of a great
king. There were no less than six carriages waiting, one for each of the
tattered and miserable band. All the attendants (as if in court-dress)
wore swords, and as each man crawled into his carriage they drew them,
and saluted with a sudden blaze of steel.
"What can it all mean?" asked Bull of Syme as they separated. "Is this
another joke of Sunday's?"
"I don't know," said Syme as he sank wearily back in the cushions of his
carriage; "but if it is, it's one of the jokes you talk about. It's a
The six adventurers had passed through many adventures, but not one
had carried them so utterly off their feet as this last adventure of
comfort. They had all become inured to things going roughly; but things
suddenly going smoothly swamped them. They could not even feebly imagine
what the carriages were; it was enough for them to know that they were
carriages, and carriages with cushions. They could not conceive who
the old man was who had led them; but it was quite enough that he had
certainly led them to the carriages.
Syme drove through a drifting darkness of trees in utter abandonment.
It was typical of him that while he had carried his bearded chin forward
fiercely so long as anything could be done, when the whole business was
taken out of his hands he fell back on the cushions in a frank collapse.
Very gradually and very vaguely he realised into what rich roads the
carriage was carrying him. He saw that they passed the stone gates of
what might have been a park, that they began gradually to climb a hill
which, while wooded on both sides, was somewhat more orderly than a
forest. Then there began to grow upon him, as upon a man slowly waking
from a healthy sleep, a pleasure in everything. He felt that the hedges
were what hedges should be, living walls; that a hedge is like a human
army, disciplined, but all the more alive. He saw high elms behind the
hedges, and vaguely thought how happy boys would be climbing there. Then
his carriage took a turn of the path, and he saw suddenly and quietly,
like a long, low, sunset cloud, a long, low house, mellow in the mild
light of sunset. All the six friends compared notes afterwards and
quarrelled; but they all agreed that in some unaccountable way the
place reminded them of their boyhood. It was either this elm-top or that
crooked path, it was either this scrap of orchard or that shape of a
window; but each man of them declared that he could remember this place
before he could remember his mother.
When the carriages eventually rolled up to a large, low, cavernous
gateway, another man in the same uniform, but wearing a silver star
on the grey breast of his coat, came out to meet them. This impressive
person said to the bewildered Syme--
"Refreshments are provided for you in your room."
Syme, under the influence of the same mesmeric sleep of amazement, went
up the large oaken stairs after the respectful attendant. He entered a
splendid suite of apartments that seemed to be designed specially for
him. He walked up to a long mirror with the ordinary instinct of his
class, to pull his tie straight or to smooth his hair; and there he saw
the frightful figure that he was--blood running down his face from where
the bough had struck him, his hair standing out like yellow rags of rank
grass, his clothes torn into long, wavering tatters. At once the whole
enigma sprang up, simply as the question of how he had got there, and
how he was to get out again. Exactly at the same moment a man in blue,
who had been appointed as his valet, said very solemnly--
"I have put out your clothes, sir."
"Clothes!" said Syme sardonically. "I have no clothes except these," and
he lifted two long strips of his frock-coat in fascinating festoons, and
made a movement as if to twirl like a ballet girl.
"My master asks me to say," said the attendant, "that there is a fancy
dress ball tonight, and that he desires you to put on the costume that
I have laid out. Meanwhile, sir, there is a bottle of Burgundy and some
cold pheasant, which he hopes you will not refuse, as it is some hours
"Cold pheasant is a good thing," said Syme reflectively, "and Burgundy
is a spanking good thing. But really I do not want either of them so
much as I want to know what the devil all this means, and what sort of
costume you have got laid out for me. Where is it?"
The servant lifted off a kind of ottoman a long peacock-blue drapery,
rather of the nature of a domino, on the front of which was emblazoned
a large golden sun, and which was splashed here and there with flaming
stars and crescents.
"You're to be dressed as Thursday, sir," said the valet somewhat
"Dressed as Thursday!" said Syme in meditation. "It doesn't sound a warm
"Oh, yes, sir," said the other eagerly, "the Thursday costume is quite
warm, sir. It fastens up to the chin."
"Well, I don't understand anything," said Syme, sighing. "I have been
used so long to uncomfortable adventures that comfortable adventures
knock me out. Still, I may be allowed to ask why I should be
particularly like Thursday in a green frock spotted all over with the
sun and moon. Those orbs, I think, shine on other days. I once saw the
moon on Tuesday, I remember."
"Beg pardon, sir," said the valet, "Bible also provided for you," and
with a respectful and rigid finger he pointed out a passage in the first
chapter of Genesis. Syme read it wondering. It was that in which the
fourth day of the week is associated with the creation of the sun and
moon. Here, however, they reckoned from a Christian Sunday.
"This is getting wilder and wilder," said Syme, as he sat down in a
chair. "Who are these people who provide cold pheasant and Burgundy, and
green clothes and Bibles? Do they provide everything?"
"Yes, sir, everything," said the attendant gravely. "Shall I help you on
with your costume?"
"Oh, hitch the bally thing on!" said Syme impatiently.
But though he affected to despise the mummery, he felt a curious freedom
and naturalness in his movements as the blue and gold garment fell about
him; and when he found that he had to wear a sword, it stirred a boyish
dream. As he passed out of the room he flung the folds across his
shoulder with a gesture, his sword stood out at an angle, and he had all
the swagger of a troubadour. For these disguises did not disguise, but
CHAPTER XV. THE ACCUSER
AS Syme strode along the corridor he saw the Secretary standing at the
top of a great flight of stairs. The man had never looked so noble. He
was draped in a long robe of starless black, down the centre of which
fell a band or broad stripe of pure white, like a single shaft of light.
The whole looked like some very severe ecclesiastical vestment. There
was no need for Syme to search his memory or the Bible in orde
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